GPs across the country slam Morecambe MP David Morris for Daily Mail comments about 'brilliant' local doctor

The MP, and Conservative Lancashire County Coun Charlie Edwards, have received a huge backlash for the comments they made about Dr Andy Knox.

Friday, 3rd April 2020, 12:34 pm
Updated Friday, 3rd April 2020, 3:49 pm
Lancashire County Coun Charlie Edwards

Medical professionals from across the country also responded to a video of Mr Morris on Twitter, which showed him clapping for key workers at 8pm on Thursday April 3, thanking them for their work during the COVID-19 outbreak.

This followed comments made by Mr Morris, and his Conservative colleague Charlie Edwards, in the Daily Mail, the same day, calling a video made by a Carnforth GP "highly irresponsible" for discussing how families might deal with family members or loved ones testing positive or falling ill as a result of COVID-19.The subject matter is difficult, but Dr Knox aims to navigate decisions that families would need to make if members get sick, and, potentially, die.

Coun Edwards, who does not wish to comment further, had called for Dr Knox's resignation as Director of Population Health for Morecambe Bay Clinincal Commissioning Group.

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He told the Daily Mail that a young high-risk category Morecambe resident told him they "felt suicidal" after watching the film.

He told the newspaper that "they thought it was saying that if they get the virus they will be a burden to the NHS and forfeit a hospital bed."

Despite this, calls have since been made for both Mr Morris and Coun Edwards to apologise to Dr Knox for their comments.

This week, medical professionals, including The Association for Palliative Medicine, issued new guidance about symptom management, communication and bereavement care, advising health workers and carers on how to broach discussions with patients and their families.

Dr Andy Knox.

The new guidance for palliative care professionals says "honest conversations" about treatment should start "as early as is practicable" and warns that the nature of Covid-19 means people can "deteriorate quite quickly".

Dr Rachel Clarke, author and palliative care specialist, told the BBC: "Why would anyone want to contemplate their own mortality right now when everyone could be threatened?

"But it is precisely that uncertainty that makes this the most important time for advanced care planning."

In the same article, Dr Iain Lawrie, president of The Association for Palliative Medicine of Great Britain and Ireland, said the virus underlined the importance of these conversations.

Dr David Wrigley.

Dr Knox discussed the subject of advanced care planning in a "caring, kind and thoughtful" way, according to an overwhelming number of Lancaster Guardian correspondents.

Hundreds of people, including patients at Dr Knox's surgery, the wider Lancaster and Morecambe community, and doctors from further afield, rallied around Dr Knox, offering supportive comments, and praising him for his work on dealing with the subject.

Leigh Tomlinson said: "Total and utter support for Dr Andy Knox, he's a brilliant doctor who cares deeply about his patients and local community."

On Twitter, in response to Mr Morris' video, GP Partner Emma Nash, said: "How hugely hypocritical. Be seen to support the NHS, then behave appallingly to a GP who has bravely, honestly and compassionately set about doing what is right for the patients, and what we’ve been asked to do. So disappointed."

Morecambe and Lunesdale MP David Morris.

While Dr Prakash Kashhala, a GP in Nottinghamshire, said: "Shocking publicity stunt.

"Your recent behaviour towards frontline NHS staff has been inappropriate and hostile. Many many NHS staff back the GP that you have criticised. Shame on you!"

Dr Sarah Jane Shaw, a GP from Mere, said: "Instead of showboat clapping you should be supporting your local GPs trying their damned best to deal with this unprecedented circumstance #shameful."

Closer to home, Dr David Wrigley, a GP partner at Ashtrees Surgery in Carnforth, a colleague of Dr Knox, and vice chair of the British Medical Association (BMA), said: "We've been overwhelmed with support from all over, it's been phenomenal, despite the shock at the approach taken by the politicians, who are not focusing on the NHS and patients.

"I've been blown away with the positive response from patients and doctors in support of Andy and his video."

He said yesterday: "There is no understanding of what we are dealing with day to day.

"This is a national crisis and we desperately need the support of politicians - not their uninformed criticism in a gutter tabloid.

"Mr Morris/Mr Edwards - why not put your energy into finding adequate protective equipment for us or adequate testing for health care workers.

"Come and speak to us and see what we need locally to deal with this crisis.

"Do something proactive and helpful please."

Josh Brandwood, one of Coun Edwards' constituents, and a former councillor, said he had filed an official complaint to Lancashire County Council in relation to Coun Edwards' conduct.

He said: "His actions have arguably brought his role as a councillor and the council as a whole into disrepute.

"In the article, Councillor Edwards failed to highlight that the views are his own and not that of Lancashire County Council.

"My primary concern is that Councillor Edwards failed to conduct himself in a professional manner and instead sought to bring Dr Knox into disrepute by tipping off and speaking with the national press."

Lancashire County Council confirmed it had received a complaint.

County Councillor Geoff Driver CBE, leader of the county council said: “These are very difficult times for everyone, especially those in the health and social care sectors, who are working so hard to see us through these unprecedented times. We thank them for their work during this difficult time.

"It is certainly not a time for falling out among ourselves. We should all be pulling together right now and concentrating our energies and efforts on fighting COVID-19.

"I’m sure there will be many differences of opinion about what we do and don’t do during this crisis, but let’s put them aside for now.

"If we need to, we can debate them once we are through this."

In a Facebook post today, April 3, Dr Knox said he was grateful for all the support that had been shown.

He said: "It really has been amazing. Thank you.

"Our work in the NHS during this pandemic means we will be forced to have more difficult conversations in the coming days and weeks but this will always be done with kindness and compassion.

"Let’s focus on slowing the spread of COVID-19 down by taking Government guidance seriously and staying at home because it really will save lives.

"Let’s always be kind and remember, together we can."

David Morris, MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, has been contacted twice for comment by the Lancaster Guardian.