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Watchdog dismisses GPs’ complaint over ‘patient stuck in gravel’ story

The press watchdog has dismissed a complaint by a doctor’s surgery over a regional daily story about a patient stuck in gravel outside its buildings.

The surgery initially offered a “no comment” on the Worcester News story when contacted by a reporter, but then proceeded to take the newspaper to the Independent Press Standards Organisation.

In a story headlined “Stuck in gravel at GP”, the News reported that a passer-by had had to rescue the patient after her wheelchair became stuck whilst she tried to sign in to Albany House Surgery in the city.

It stated that patients now needed to cross over gravel to sign in at a marquee next to the receptionists’ window rather than entering the surgery directly.

The gravel drive outside the surgery with the marquee on the left.

The gravel drive outside the surgery with the marquee on the left.

The story contained a series of quotes from the patient who told the newspaper that she had been “told off” at a previous appointment for entering the surgery directly, and reported the surgery as saying it “would not be commenting.”

However the surgery claimed that the story was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 of the Ediror’s Code as there was wheelchair access at the surgery.

It provided an image of the front of the surgery which had a sign advising that if persons “cannot cross the gravel” they should ring the doorbell to receive assistance.

The surgery said the marquee referenced in the article had previously only been used for coronavirus vaccinations, but not for signing into the surgery, and that there was a clearly signposted entrance to the surgery that was wheelchair accessible.

Denying a breach of the Code, the newspaper said it had called the GP surgery prior to the publication of the article and waited for 90 minutes in order to talk to the receptionist before being told “no comment”.

It said that the patient had not seen any signs regarding wheelchair access, and that, in any case, in order to check in to the surgery at the side of the building she would have been forced to cross gravel in her wheelchair.

Following the complaint, the News published a clarification making clear that the surgery had a notice on its front door stating: “If you cannot cross the gravel, please ring the doorbell and a team member will assist you.”

However the surgery said that the publication of the corrections did not resolve its complaint, claiming that the online headline “Lack of wheelchair access leaves woman stuck in gravel at Albany House GP Surgery” was still inaccurate.

In its ruling, IPSO said that as the News had both accurately reported the account of the patient, and had attempted to contact the complainant in advance of publication, it had shown that it had taken care not to publish inaccurate information.

However given the discrepancy between the stated policy of the surgery and the account of the patient, a clarification was required under Clause 1(ii).

As the published clarification had put the correct position on record and was offered promptly and with due prominence, no further action was required.

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