Kate Gibbons in The Times 7th March reports: Dr Christian Solomonides, 37, sent tweets venting his frustration at people who he claimed were “crippling” the NHS by using emergency doctors for trivial problems. (Andy Russell in The Mirror decrys A&E abuse)
There are thousands of “ranting doctors”, but they keep their rants to themselves. Time for honest and open “exit interviews”, and real removal of gagging . Of course only by an independent third party now that all credibility is gone from UK Regional Health Services. Despite the pragmatic punishment, whistle-blowers now know their minimal punishment.
A doctor who posted expletive-filled Twitter rants about A&E patients wasting NHS time has been allowed to keep his job with a two-month suspension after a watchdog said many people would agree with him.
Christian Solomonides, 37, sent tweets venting his frustration at people who he claimed were “crippling” the NHS by using emergency doctors for trivial problems.
“A few aches and pains . . . Who f***ing cares . . . Just crack on like every other normal thinking person. Ambulance for a broken nail, an earache, period pain, not being able to sleep are all REAL. What’s going on with the people of the UK?” wrote the senior consultant in emergency medicine at Barnet hospital, north London. He made 188 tweets over three and a half years with the name @DrCMS1 and the hashtag #rant. He said 90 per cent of admissions were “f***ing bulls***”.
He was reported to the General Medical Council when a complaint was made. At a hearing in Manchester, Dr Solomonides, of Chingford, east London, was found guilty of misconduct and given a two month suspension. Lisa Smith, the chairwoman, said: “The tribunal determined that, whilst some people may agree with your views, a reasonable and well-informed member of the public would not expect a doctor to air such views in a public forum.”
Dr Solomonides later apologised.
We all need to hear a few hard truths sometimes – and a cleansing burst of anger rarely hurts anybody for long
On this chill spring morning, give a fist-bump to Lisa Smith, who has just chaired a General Medical Council tribunal. In the case of Christian Solomonides, a more self-righteously shockable chairman could presumably have thrown the book at the A&E doctor who posted 188 enraged, cursing tweets about timewasters, idiots and “ambulatory neurotics crippling the NHS”.
Ms Smith might have rolled up her eyes, declared that this misconduct “affected public confidence in the profession” as per the rule book, and deprived us of his skills. But she merely awarded a two-month suspension, observing that some people would agree with his views but that a reasonable citizen doesn’t expect a doctor to go public so vehemently. Dr Solomonides will be back at his post by May. Be very afraid.
Actually, don’t be. As he said in his apology, “these personal views have never influenced my clinical practice in any way”. He is reported to be an excellent physician, and the very explosiveness of his Twitter feed (sadly deleted) suggests a man controlled enough to need an outlet. His profile reveals a Grade 8 pianist and a powerlifter, his photo a powerful build and shaven head: clearly an alpha male overspilling with energy. Handy if you work in the NHS. I hope he has a way to get all that eloquent rage off his chest in private, rather than risk Twitter — a forum that as we know is patrolled by some of the most sanctimonious, censorious, thick, petulant, irony-resistant, virtue-signalling prigs on the planet.
I doubt that whoever reported him to the GMC and whined about his “problem with equality and diversity” spends as much time as he has to in careful listening, rapid thinking, explaining, examining people who smell dreadful, facing aggressive drunks and meanwhile arguing with the Trust for emergency beds.
Of course it is wiser not to vent frustration on a public noticeboard. But what fine frustration it was! The consultant blasted people who call out ambulances, costing £1,000 a time, for “a broken nail, an earache, period pain, not being able to sleep”. And who then fuss about waiting 15 minutes and abuse the triage staff: “It doesn’t matter HOW you arrive, it’s WHAT you arrive with that determines when or if you’ll be seen”. He snarls: “Don’t present to triage stinking of fags demanding Calpol on prescription, quit smoking and start investing in your child’s health.” He wants a fine of £50 for those who abuse A&E and roars: “A few aches and pains . . . who f***ing cares? Just crack on like every other normal thinking person.”
Similar reflections are aired, between friends, by many in his profession. You could argue that Dr Solomonides did some good by laying them out there — not abusing individuals, but reminding us all how not to behave.
More controversially, he also talked of the pressure of mass immigration (it’s a London hospital), but it is a recognised problem of our disorganised system that recent immigrants and asylum seekers may not yet have GPs and so turn up in casualty. As for his remarks about religion, especially Islam (“never met a Muslim who was into classical music, outdoor pursuits or nature”) they are unfair, but no ruder than Professor Richard Dawkins often is. So let the cursing consultant have his time off work, throw weights around, hammer out a savage Appassionata on the piano and return refreshed.
I have a soft spot for the story because there is something cathartic in furious invective, especially if it is a bit justified. The majority of the Solomonides tweets were, because the NHS, like the teaching profession, gets the brunt of stupidity, arrogant entitlement and anxiety disorders that would once have been absorbed by families, good neighbours and priests. And there is glory in the very act of sounding off, or watching someone else at it. It cleanses us of inner boiling furies.
Of course it helps if the fury is reasonable, as in the banker-bashing moments of the film The Big Short, or Jesus overturning the money-changers’ tables. But even that isn’t necessary: sometimes it’s purely the energy of invective that delights. Why else did we love Malcolm Tucker in The Thick of It? Why else are Shakespeare’s insults a bestselling line in theatre bookshops?
I have compared notes lately with colleagues and friends on the American play Hand To God, currently in London. A glove puppet becomes Satanic, foul-mouthed and hostile, its handler (and victim) Harry Melling adopting a deep-devil roaring voice as his sock hand gapes and howls: “You’re a piece-a s***, Pastor!” Fascinatingly, those (including me) who arrived nursing a filthy temper for other reasons seem to have enjoyed the play far more than those arriving in a mellow state.
So by all means let us have reasoned debate (not least in those cry-baby student unions who “no-platform” anyone who might hurt their feelings). But acknowledge too that there is a human need for explosion: ranting, bawling, unreasonable, exasperated name-calling. We can’t delegate it all to Giles Coren and Rod Liddle. Even a short blast can help: it is rare for any post to be opened in our house without someone shouting “Bastards!”.
And yes, one can see how an odd Twitter moment may have helped a doctor to murmur politely “Nothing to worry about, just rest it for a day”, while inwardly longing to the patient through the nearest plate-glass window.