Doctor launches libel claim for £200,000

A DOCTOR is suing a national newspaper for damages, claiming his reputation was smeared in a journalist’s column.

Dr Antonio Serrano, a GP who worked at Roebuck House in the Old Town and has since moved to another local surgery, is taking the Daily Mail to the High Court for £200,000 following an article published on April 21 last year and written by columnist Kelvin MacKenzie.

The column, headlined ‘A whole year of hell, thanks to a foreign doctor’, suggested that Dr Serrano was seriously incompetent and had an ‘inadequate grasp of the English language’, according to a claim form filed at the High Court in London.

It described how a diagnosis by Dr Serrano on one of his patients, 53-year-old Kevin Jones, of Pentland Close, St Leonards, led to the bus driver’s licence being revoked by the DVLA.

The GP’s lawyers said Mr MacKenzie’s column falsely portrayed the medical professional as ‘a particularly shocking example of foreign doctors working in the NHS who, for reasons deriving from their being foreign, are seriously incompetent, inadequate or otherwise unacceptable’.

The columnist also instructed his agent, the former Sun journalist Charles Rae, to put some of the allegations to Dr Serrano, the lawyers said in their 13-page claim against Associated Newspapers, the Daily Mail’s publisher.

This week Dr Serrano told the Observer that the information published in the Daily Mail was totally inaccurate, and that he had suffered many offensive comments posted on the newspaper’s website about his ‘inadequate grasp of the English language’.

The Observer ran a story in April last year, speaking to Mr Jones, who claimed he spent more than a year battling to get his licence back from the DVLA, saying Dr Serrano diagnosed him with gout and accusing him of drinking too much.

It carried a full statement from Dr Serrano, together with one from Hastings and Rother Primary Care Trust (PCT).

A spokesman for Associated Newspapers confirmed the publisher was contesting Dr Serrano’s claim but could not comment further on the case.