Resolution Statement: Complaint 07630-15 Lawrence v The Sun

    • Date complaint received

      21st December 2015

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Resolution Statement: Complaint 07630-15 Lawrence v The Sun

Summary of complaint

1. Dr Chris Lawrence complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Sun had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Doc their pay”, published on 5 November 2015.

2. The complainant was one of a number of individuals who raised concerns about the article; he was selected as IPSO’s lead complainant.

3. The complainant said that the newspaper had published an article which contained a number of inaccuracies relating to the dispute between junior doctors and the Department of Health over proposed changes to their contract. These included that junior doctors had been offered a pay rise; that a strike would be a “dereliction of duty”; that junior doctors were “well paid” and could “boost their salaries by dictating the amount of overtime they work”; that A&E patients were “16% more likely to die on a Sunday than on a weekday”; and that the British Medical Association had refused to negotiate with the government over the proposed contract changes.

4. The newspaper said it was entitled to its opinion that it would be a “dereliction of duty” should junior doctors go on strike, and that junior doctors were “well paid”. It said the report that junior doctors had been offered an 11% pay rise had been based on information provided by the Department of Health. It accepted, however, that the 16% figure relating to weekend deaths was an “over-simplification” of the study upon which it was based. In addition, although it considered that junior doctors could “influence” their hours, it said the article’s assertion that they could “dictate” their hours had been “too strong”. It therefore offered to publish the following wording in print and online:

In a leader column ‘Doc their pay’ about the junior doctors’ dispute, we expressed the opinion that junior doctors were well paid compared to other public sector workers and they ‘boost their salaries by dictating the amount of overtime they work’. In fact, although they can influence their rotas, they cannot choose what time they work. We also stated that A&E patients are 16% more likely to die on a Sunday than a week day. In fact a BMJ paper concluded that patients ‘admitted’ on a weekend were more likely to die within 30 days of admission than those admitted on a weekday.

Relevant Code Provisions

5. Clause 1 (Accuracy)

i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and - where appropriate - an apology published. In cases involving the Regulator, prominence should be agreed with the Regulator in advance.

iii) The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

Mediated outcome

6. The complainant accepted the newspaper’s offer of a correction as a resolution to the complaint, and the correction was published in print on 23 December 2015, and online.

7. As the complaint was successfully mediated, the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as to whether there had been any breach of the Code.

Date complaint received: 06/11/2015
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 21/12/2015