GP secures damages from NHS England after ‘wrongful and unlawful’ statements to BBC

NHS England is to pay damages to a GP whose privacy it breached by telling the BBC that she was under investigation.

Its “wrongful and unlawful” statements had caused enormous distress and upset to Dr Rina Miah, who ran the Harbottle Surgery in Northumberland – the UK’s most isolated rural surgery, London’s High Court heard.

Counsel Alex Marzec told Mr Justice Dingemans that in January 2014, a year before its closure, information about Dr Miah’s recording of patient information was received via a confidential service provided by the NHS.

NHS England told Dr Miah that the ensuing investigation was to be conducted on the basis that it was private and confidential, and appropriate steps would be taken to ensure this.

In September 2015, “wholly contrary” to these assurances, said Ms Marzec, NHS England gave the BBC a written press release stating that she was under investigation by NHS Protect and this was repeated in a statement for broadcast the following month, the court heard.

This was inaccurate, she added, as the investigation was not by NHS Protect.

She said: “The defendant accepts that its public statements were made wrongfully, in breach of the claimant’s rights of confidentiality, privacy and under the Data Protection Act.

“They ought not to have been made.”

In October 2015, counsel told the court, the BBC twice broadcast a news report alleging that Dr Miah was the subject of a fraud investigation and published an article on its website which included the same allegation.

Two months later, NHS England closed its investigation into Dr Miah’s record keeping without further action due to the press attention received, the court heard.

“The presumption of innocence stands and therefore the claimant is not liable for any of the matters for which she was investigated”, said Ms Marzec.

NHS England has agreed to pay Dr Miah “acceptable” damages and her costs.

Its counsel, William Bennett, said it accepted that her private and confidential information should not have been disclosed to the BBC and offered its profound and sincere apologies.

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