GPs attack “bullying” solicitors over Covid exemption letters

GPs: “Unacceptable for solicitors to write very threatening letters”

The British Medical Association (BMA) has accused solicitors of bullying GPs by threatening legal action if the doctor does not provide a Covid vaccination exemption for their client.

It has welcomed a statement from the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) warning lawyers against “writing in offensive, threatening or intimidatory ways”.

A newsletter from the BMA’s GP committee last week warned that “some solicitors” were writing letters of this nature and urged doctors receiving them to contact their medical defence organisation and share a copy with the BMA’s medico-legal committee (MLC) so that it could “pursue further via the SRA”.

It said the MLC had contacted the SRA and been assured that solicitors should not be “writing in offensive, threatening or intimidatory ways”. The SRA said it also did not expect solicitors “to pursue matters which they know have no legal merit”.

The newsletter added that both committees have met with the Covid-19 exemptions team at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

“We understand that further guidance on Covid-19 exemptions will be published and this will clarify the role of doctors in providing exemption certificates, make it clear what conditions do and do not warrant an exemption, and reiterate that there is no appeal.

“We have asked for departmental support that any legal action is against the policy, and thus the DHSC, and not the GP/surgery. Both committees hope to see a swift and satisfactory conclusion to this matter.”

Dr Simon Minkoff, chair of the MLC, said: “It is unacceptable for solicitors to write very threatening letters to GPs for doing their job properly. We have met with the DHSC and hope to see some useful improvements to the COVID vaccine exemption scheme.

“Whilst these letters may reduce now [vaccination as a condition of deployment] has been withdrawn, the principle of protecting doctors who are inappropriately bullied by patients via solicitors remains.”

Dr Michael Devlin, head of professional standards and liaison at the Medical Defence Union, said: “Doctors have been raising this issue with us in recent months, and we fully appreciate how distressing it can be to be on the receiving end of such letters.

“As we move to a new stage in this pandemic, incidents such as these highlight just how important it is for the government and NHS England to deliver clear guidance for the profession. This must be robust, so GPs do not have to deal with this sort of correspondence.”

An SRA spokesman said: “The BMA contacted us about concerning letters its members had received from solicitors. We have asked for sight of these so we could better advise.

“In the meantime, we provided general advice about solicitors’ obligations when conducting litigation and the standards we expect.”

“To date we have not received any specific examples of letters to consider further.”

    Readers Comments

  • David Crawford says:

    What on earth has this, once great(?), profession come to? Mind you my two children were born in the Royal Shrewsbury and it seems the medical profession has been bullying anyone who might be tempted to blow the whistle there into silence….

  • Steve says:

    Good on the solicitors, the doctors are a disgrace and should be sacked for going against their oaths

  • Stephen Hall says:

    Getting threatening letters from solicitors

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