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Sacked doctor loses IPSO complaint against sister newspapers

Sudip SarkerA cancer surgeon sacked for gross misconduct has had his complaint against two sister newspapers rejected by the press watchdog.

Sudip Sarker, left, complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation over stories in the Birmingham Mail and Birmingham Post, which reported that his mortality rate was twice that of colleagues at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust.

The articles reported on the concerns of campaigners, who had called for a judicial review of the Trust’s actions, after “mortality rates [at the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch] had risen despite health bosses claiming their changes would improve patient safety”.

Complaining under Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, Mr Sarker added it was also inaccurate to reporte he had been sacked due to his mortality rates.

In response, the Post and Mail provided a document from the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS), dated October 2012, which said that the complainant’s 28-day mortality rate was double that of two of his colleagues who undertook colorectal surgery at the Alexandra Hospital over the review period.

But Mr Sarker said that in referencing the RCS report from 2012, Post and Mail had relied upon unadjusted mortality data, which included patients who had palliative operations for terminal cancer, and was therefore misleading.

He declined to confirm the reasons for his dismissal from the hospital, according to IPSO.

The Post and Mail offered to publish a clarification after it came to light that the complainant had attempted to obtain an injunction in order to prevent the Trust from continuing with a disciplinary hearing against him.

The judgment in the injunction hearing set out the charges which Mr Sarker had faced in the disciplinary proceedings which led to his dismissal for gross misconduct, but did not state that he had been dismissed for having double the mortality figures of his colleagues.

IPSO found that in circumstances where restrictions on Mr Sarker’s ability to practice were imposed by the General Medical Council and a finding had been made by the Royal College of Surgeons Rapid Review that his mortality rates were double those of his colleagues, it did not consider that the inaccuracy on this point was significant in the context of the articles.

The complaint was not upheld, and the full adjudication can be read here.