England’s most senior GP has quit after admitting playing “devil’s advocate” by posting anonymous comments on an online forum.
Dr Arvind Madan, director of primary care at NHS England, resigned on Sunday after it was revealed he was behind dozens of incognito remarks posted under medical articles.
Dr Madan said he had wanted to challenge negative views held by a “small but vocal minority” in the industry, claiming the comments were not intended to be inflammatory.
Announcing his resignation, the east London GP said it had sadly become clear he had “lost the confidence” of some of his colleagues.
In a statement on NHS England’s website 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.
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“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.”
It is believed Dr Madan used the pseudonym “Devil’sAdvocate” to post comments under articles on Pulse Today, a trade publication.
One comment, under an article about hundreds of GP surgeries closing over the past five years, said most businesses would be “pleased to see a rationalisation of their markets”.
It added: “Let’s face it, there are probably too many small practices out there struggling to do everything you would want for your family in an era of modern general practice.
Another by the same user read: “Enough….we can get 6 figure salaries for working 4 days a week 45 weeks a year without on call….run that past the general public and see how much sympathy you get.”
In his resignation statement, Dr Madan said small practices were crucial but many were struggling and that integrating them with others would be beneficial.
The British Medical Association (BMA) said it was “only right” that Dr Madan stepped down.
BMA GP committee deputy chair Dr Mark Sanford-Wood said: “We have today written to NHS England raising our concerns and demanding action after 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.”
NHS England said that Dr Madan resigned before the BMA’s letter was received.