Ruling

14012-16 Dhody’s v Express & Star

    • Date complaint received

      20th July 2017

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 14012-16 Dhody’s v Express & Star

Summary of the Complaint

1. Dhody’s complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Express & Star breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Dentist’s is told it must improve on leadership”, published in print on 5 May 2016. The article was also published online with the headline “Walsall dental practice is told it must improve”.

2. The article reported on what was the latest Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection of the complainant’s practice. It reported that according to the CQC report, the dentist was “not properly equipped to deal with emergencies and gave patients suffering seizures incorrect medicine”. The article went on to explain in greater detail that during the CQC’s visit, “it was recorded that the system in place for dealing with patients suffering from epileptic seizures involved supplying them with diazepam instead of midazolam, the medicine of choice set out by the British National Formulary. The diazepam given out was also out of date and was used alongside an oxygen tent that was past its expiry date”. 

3. While the headlines were slightly different, the print and online versions of the article were the same.

4. The article reported that “inspectors at the CQC say that they had received ‘concerning information’ regarding infection prevention control at the practice prior to their visit”, and the CQC found that “improvement was required in terms of leadership at the site, and that legal breaches were made regarding surgical procedures, screening procedures and the treatment of disease”. It reported that the practice required “no improvement in safety, effectiveness, care and responsiveness”. The article reported that no one from the practice was available to comment.

5. The complainant said that the CQC had not found that it had actually given a patient diazepam instead of midazolam. Rather, the CQC had found that it used diazepam rather than midazolam in its emergency drug box, but the complainant said that because it had never had a medical emergency, it had never actually administered diazepam. In addition, the complainant said that the CQC had found it did not use the “medicine of choice”. Nevertheless, the complainant said that diazepam was a suitable medicine for treating seizures, and was not “incorrect”, as reported in the article.

6. The complainant said that it was still registered with the CQC and practicing legally, and it was inaccurate to report that the CQC had found legal breaches. It said that while the article reported that the CQC had received “concerning information” regarding infection prevention prior to its visit, the article did not report that these concerns turned out to be unfounded. The complainant said that the article misrepresented the CQC report more generally, and made no mention of its positive findings. The complainant said that no contact had been made by the newspaper prior to publication, and that it was inaccurate to report that it had not been available to comment.

7. The newspaper said that its article accurately reported the findings of the CQC report, outlining where failings had been identified in the inspection. It said the report made clear that certain legal requirements were not being met, and made clear what the complainant must do in response. This included ensuring availability of medicines to manage medical emergencies giving due regard to guidelines issued by the British National Formulary. It noted the complainant’s position that it had never had an emergency at the practice, but said that had it had such an emergency prior to the inspection, the patient would have received diazepam. It said that whether such an emergency had occurred was immaterial. It noted that the inspection had found that the practice’s diazepam was out of date.

8. The newspaper said that the CQC report had highlighted areas for improvement in the practice’s infection control policy, and required that the practice must ensure its infection control procedures, giving due regard to relevant guidelines and codes of practice.

9. The newspaper said it had tried to contact the complainant by telephone at least twice, prior to publication, although noted that the article was a report of a CQC inspection and that in these circumstances there was no obligation to contact the practice for comment. It had previously amended the online article to state that the practice was “found to have incorrect medicine”. During the IPSO complaints process, and as a gesture of goodwill, the newspaper removed the article from its website. It also offered to publish the following correction on page 9, where it says clarifications are printed. It offered to publish the correction on the homepage of its website.

An article of May 5 2016 reported that the Care Quality Commission had found that Dhody’s dental practice had given patients suffering seizures incorrect medicine, according to a report. While the CQC found that the practice used diazepam, rather than midazolam, the medicine of choice, and found that the diazepam was out-of-date, the CQC did not determine that the dentist had administered diazepam, or out-of-date medicine to any patients.

It also offered to publish a follow up article, reporting on a more positive report the complainant had received from the CQC.

Relevant Code provisions

10. Clause 1 (Accuracy)

i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.

iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.

iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

Findings of the Committee

11. The CQC found that Diazepam was not the medicine of choice for dealing with a patient suffering from a seizure, and the practice’s Diazepam had been out of date. In these circumstances, it was not inaccurate to report that the practice used the “incorrect medicine”. In claiming that the practice “gave patients suffering seizures incorrect medicine”, the article suggested that patients had actually been given this drug. While the Committee acknowledged the complainant’s position that the practice had never actually had an emergency requiring use of the drug, the suggestion that it had done so was not significantly misleading where the practice would have used the “incorrect medicine” in such circumstances. This aspect of the article did not breach Clause 1.

12. The CQC report referred to a number of “legal requirements that were not being met” in relation to the following regulated activities: diagnostic and screening procedures, surgical procedures and treatment of disease, disorder and injury. To characterise these findings as “legal breaches” was not inaccurate, and did not breach Clause 1.

13. The CQC report explained that it had received “concerning information that related to concerns about infection prevention control”. The report did not specify what these concerns were, or refer to them again. The Committee noted the complainant’s position that these concerns were in fact unfounded. However, where this was not a finding made by the CQC, the article was not misleading as a report of the CQC’s findings. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.

14. In relation to the complainant’s concern that the article made no mention of the CQC’s positive findings, the Committee noted that the article made clear that there were several areas in which the CQC found no need for improvement. In addition, the Committee explained that the Code does not contain a requirement for balance, and that editors can exercise a discretion in selecting material for publication, as long as the Code is not otherwise breached. The fact that the article primarily reported on where the CQC had identified problems did not, in this case, distort the contents of the report, such as to breach Clause 1.

15. There is no specific requirement under the Code for publications to contact the subjects of coverage prior to publication, although it may be necessary in some instances to ensure that care is taken to comply with Clause 1 (i). In this instance, the newspaper was reporting on findings by the CQC, and it did not represent a failure to take care over the accuracy of the article to report these findings without having obtained the complainant’s comments in response. While there was a conflict of evidence in relation to whether the newspaper had attempted to contact the complainant prior to publication, the Committee considered that the claim that no-one from the practice had been available to comment was not a significant claim in the context of the article, such as to represent a breach Clause 1.

16. The article did not contain a significant inaccuracy or misleading statement, such as to require correction under the terms of Clause 1 (ii). However, the Committee noted that has such a correction been necessary, Clause 1 (ii) would require it to be published with due prominence. Where the article was published on page 5, due prominence for a correction would typically be page 5, or further forward in the newspaper. However, where a newspaper has an established corrections column, the requirement for due prominence may be met by publishing a correction in that column, even where this appears further back in the newspaper.

17. In this case, the publication was offering to publish a correction on page 9, where it said clarifications are published. However, the Committee has made clear that in order for a corrections and clarifications column to be considered established, they need to make readers aware where the column would ordinarily appear in editions where there were no corrections or clarifications are published. While the newspaper published information on page 9 about IPSO, and how to make a complaint, there was no statement that this was where corrections and clarifications would be published.  For this reason, the Committee did not consider that the newspaper had an established corrections column on page 9. As such, the Committee made clear that, had a correction been required in this case, the newspaper would have failed to comply with the requirement for due prominence under Clause 1 (ii).

Conclusions

18. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required

19. N/A

Date complaint received: 12/12/2016
Date decision issued: 05/07/2017