Most senior NHS GP resigns after inflammatory online comments exposed

Comments Dr Arvind Madan posted online under the pseudonym Devil's Advocate have inflamed tensions with under pressure practices

Alex Matthews-King
Health Correspondent
Sunday 05 August 2018 18:40 BST
Comments on the closure of small GP practices come after research showing millions of patients have lost their local GP surgery because of pressures
Comments on the closure of small GP practices come after research showing millions of patients have lost their local GP surgery because of pressures

One of Britain’s most senior GPs was forced to resign from his role as NHS England’s director of primary care, after it was revealed he had been anonymously posting inflammatory comments about doctors online.

Dr Arvind Madan caused outrage among family doctors after his comments came to light in an interview with the doctor’s magazine Pulse.

The London based GP had been leaving posts under stories on the magazine’s website under the pseudonym ”Devil’s Advocate” for a number of years, often speaking out in favour of NHS England policies.

Dr Madan said in a statement that he had been seeking to “provoke a more balanced discussion” by challenging negative views and conspiracy theories aired by of the some commenters.

However, readers of the magazine were able to work out his identity when he posted clarifications on articles he had written using his real name, with his “Devils Advocate” pseudonym.

He routinely commented on recent closures of GP practices, saying those remaining should be “pleased” that less viable businesses were shut.

These closures have meant more than one million patients have had to find new doctors, and have stretched the remaining practices to breaking point in some towns, according to a recent analysis.

Other comments took aim at doctors complaining about workload pressures and mounting costs. He said: “We can get six figure salaries for working four days a week, 45 weeks a year. Run that past the general public and see how much sympathy you get.”

When asked in an interview if these were views he still stood by Dr Madan did not disavow them, but he announced he would be standing down early from his position at NHS England.

“[My] secondment comes to an end later this year, but it is clear to me that, sadly, I have lost the confidence of some of my colleagues, and I have therefore decided to resign my NHS England position,” he said. “As part of my attempts to challenge the negative views – and even conspiracy theories – held by a small but vocal minority in the profession I posted on an anonymous online forum used by GPs.

“It was never my intention to cause offence but rather to provoke a more balanced discussion about contentious issues acting as a devil’s advocate.”

He added: “I wish to make it categorically clear that these comments are not a reflection of NHS England policy, and it is now clear to me that trying to move the debate on in this way is not compatible with my role as Director of Primary Care. Supporting general practice is too important an issue to allow it to be mired in unnecessary controversy.

“I would like to apologise unreservedly to those who have been upset, particularly in smaller practices.”

NHS England did not comment on his resignation.

However, the British Medical Association (BMA) has written to it demanding action against Dr Madan for his damaging comments, although a spokesperson for the health service body said it has not received this yet.

Deputy chair of the BMA’s GP Committee, Dr Mark Sanford-Wood said: “Dr Madan’s damaging comments caused significant anger amongst the profession at a time when GPs require support from NHS England. It is only right that he has therefore done the right thing and offered his resignation.”

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