Earlier today I picked up on a tweet made by a doctor by the name of Julia Simons. I recalled that she became a bit of social media star last year when Boris Johnson visited Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge where she was a final year medical student.
During the prime minister’s visit to Addenbrookes hospital in Cambridge, during which he said the UK would leave the European Union by January “at the absolute latest” he was filmed being booed, and accused of using the hospital for a PR stunt.
Julia Simons, who is training at the hospital to become a doctor, told journalists afterwards the prime minister was “too cowardly” to face dealing with the real opinions of staff working in an NHS which has been subject to funding cuts and seen more services privatised.The Independent; 1 November 2019
I forwarded the tweet on to a colleague who works in NHS management in Northern Ireland and asked for their views on the claims made. They responded saying “Reads more like propaganda than fact. No way a junior doctor would be left in charge of an Oncology ward.”
It didn’t read right to me either and as I have been in contact with Public Health England regarding their data, I thought I’d run it by them, but before doing so I tweeted Julia for clarification.
My concern was not so much that a junior doctor was being left in charge of a ward, as I don’t know the protocols of how that kind of stuff works. My concern was her claim that “everyone else is off BECAUSE OF COVID.” That to me sounds like very bad hospital management and if there had been a spread of the virus at Addenbrooke’s, why hadn’t it been on the news?
My colleague then advised That I contact her hospital as it was raising eyebrows in the NHS here, given they hadn’t heard of any recent outbreak in Addenbrooke.
I carried out some Google searches to be sure she still worked at the hospital and was directed to an interview on YouTube that she did with Sky News and was posted to the channel on 28th March 2020 by “The Doctors’ Association UK”. In it the reporter claims she is [still] a final year student.
So I thought I’d take a chance and email the hospital as it would be unlikely she would have the left in her final year.
I have redacted the names of the people I communicated with at Addenbrooke as I would like to seek their approval before publishing them. However, Dr Julia Simons can be reached at @DrJulia_Simons should you be in any doubt of my contact.
The hospital responded a short time after.
I wrote back…
The hospital replied:
So the hospital have been clear in denying the doctor’s claims. Julia would then delete her tweet without posting an apology or retraction thus leaving her claims as truths with everyone who read them. The deletion came too late though as Sky News picked up on the story and passed it on to countless other thousands of people.
I am not surprised her hospital would be upset about this and it again shows how unverified and unsupported claims by so called professionals are taken at face value and passed on as fact.
Followers of Julia’s on Twitter would then go on the attack against me claiming my tweet was “threatening”:
With another (now deleted) tweet chastising me for the author’s inability to comprehend the question I was asking.
In another now deleted tweet this person reported me to Twitter for simply asking the doctor a question.
When it became apparent the doctor wasn’t telling the truth…
Then the conspiracy theories started:
Even as I was typing this article accusations of me lying were still being lobbed. I do wonder why this account didn’t just ask Julia if I was telling the truth?
Wittingly or otherwise what these accounts end up doing is shielding misinformation and those spouting it. They attempt to ward off any questioning of a narrative they choose to believe and will do what they can to distract the person asking questions, even to the extent of appealing to Twitter to censor them.
As of the time of publishing this article (19:00) Julia has neither responded to my questions, made any attempt to avail of a right to reply or posted a retraction and/or apology for tweeting false claims that could have serious ramifications for reputation of the hospital. There is also the knock on effect of sick people picking the story up on Sky News and deciding against going to the hospital in fear there’s a COVID-19 outbreak. Her words could potentially place already vulnerable, anxious people in a much worse predicament.
I will be making contact with the General Medical Council asking them to review the matter given its seriousness. It is my view that Dr Julia Simons used the pandemic and her current social media fame to dabble in some self-promotion and attention seeking. If it wasn’t that then we must ask why else did she post such appalling claims that have been shown to be false?
We expect a lot more from doctors than spouting misinformation social media that could have dramatic consequences for some. We look to doctors for guidance, honesty, truth and integrity – not to capitalise of the back of fear-mongering. Hopefully Julia issues an apology and helps restore confidence in the profession and in her hospital whose reputation has taken a big hit over this.