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Daily deletes story to resolve complaint after coroner refuses help

NewIPSOA doctor’s complaint prompted a regional daily to remove an inquest story after a coroner refused to provide supporting evidence for the newspaper.

The Newcastle Chronicle deleted the story from its website in order to resolve a complaint to the Independent Press Standard Organisation, despite backing its reporter’s coverage of the hearing.

Jane Margetts, a consultant medical oncologist who was a witness at the inquest in question, complained to IPSO after claiming the Chronicle’s coverage was inaccurate.

The newspaper backed its coverage after the watchdog began an investigation into the matter, before agreeing to a request by Dr Margetts that the story – and any searchable trace of it – be removed in order to resolve the complaint.

The story under complaint had reported on the death of a woman who Dr Margetts had treated and included comments from the doctor that she had to “prioritise” referrals, that the deceased’s referral had not been marked as “urgent” and she had used the information available to her to make the decision.

Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, Dr Margetts said it was inaccurate to report that the woman’s referral, which had been sent on 27 July, had not been dealt with until 14 August and that she had allocated her an appointment for four weeks later.

While she accepted that these dates had been heard during the inquest, she had verbally corrected the record during her own evidence.

The doctor also claimed the story wrongfully suggested that she had been negligent in her post, adding the headline was inaccurate and misleading to report that “inquest rules” and “NHS delays” had impacted the woman’s family.

She said that parts of her evidence were quoted verbatim and in such a way to imply fault but others – such as the actions she took to mitigate delays – were not covered, while the story appeared to support the family’s claim, which she denied, that the late arrival of a letter following the death of the deceased indicated that a whistleblower had been involved.

After being contacted directly by Dr Margetts, the Chronicle said it was satisfied that it had accurately reported inquest proceedings and provided the reporter’s contemporaneous notes to demonstrate this.

It said it had no record of the doctor verbally correcting the chronology presented to the inquest.

The Chronicle then requested an audio recording of the hearing from the coroner, which was denied by the court, and returned to Dr Margetts to say it would consider appropriate amendments to the story should she provide evidence to support her position.

In response, her representative provided a transcript of her evidence to the inquest during which she verbally corrected the date – prompting the newspaper to issue a correction on this point.

Denying any breach of Code, the Chronicle said that it was entitled to focus on specific aspects of the inquest and maintained that it had accurately reported the doctor’s comments and the coroner’s findings, including that while the delay in referral did not impact the medical outcome of the deceased it would have given the family more time to spend with their loved one.

The paper also said it had accurately reported the comments made by the family, which were clearly presented as their opinion and distinguished as such.

Further suggestion corrections to the copy by Dr Margetts were rejected by the Chronicle but, following the launch of IPSO’s investigation, she said that the removal of the story – and for the Chronicle to contact search engines to ensure the article did not remain searchable elsewhere on the internet – would resolve the matter to her satisfaction.

In order to resolve the complaint and as a gesture of goodwill, the Chronicle removed the online article and requested the removal of the article from search engines.

IPSO therefore discontinued its investigation and the full resolution statement can be read here.