The British Medical Association (BMA) has roundly condemned yesterday’s “utterly disgraceful” public attack on Dr David Nicholl by leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg, saying the consultant neurologist was as irresponsible as the discredited Dr Andrew Wakefield.
The Conservative MP for North East Somerset compared Dr Nicholl, who leaked details of the government’s no-deal Brexit plans over concerns around patient safety and warned of the impact of a no-deal exit from the European Union, with Dr Wakefield, who falsely linked the measles, mumps & rubella (MMR) vaccine with autism in 1998 and was struck off in 2010 by the General Medical Council (GMC) for serious professional misconduct.
Valerie Vaz, Labour MP for Walsall South, had just explained to MPs why she believed it is so important that the Bill to prevent a no-deal Brexit, passed by MPs the previous night, should make its way through the Lords. She listed numerous professional bodies that have warned of the disastrous consequences of a no-deal Brexit, including the Confederation of British Industry, the Trades Union Congress, the National Farmers’ Union, the Food and Drink Federation, the Incorporated Society of Musicians – and the BMA. She asked Jacob Rees-Mogg: “The British Medical Association said in its report that the dangers of a no-deal could lead to the disintegration of the NHS... Are they scaremongering?...
“I think the leader of the House also owes an apology to Dr David Nicholl, who was part of Operation Yellowhammer. When will the leader of the House publish Operation Yellowhammer, or does he think the government are scaremongering?”
Mr Rees-Mogg responded by accusing Valerie Vaz of being “scaremonger in chief” and said: “Yes, a lot of remainers wish to make our skins crawl. I am afraid it seems to me that Dr David Nicholl … is as irresponsible as Dr Wakefield, in threatening that people will die because we leave the European Union. What level of irresponsibility was that?”
The BMA condemned his attack on Dr Nicholl, which follows previous public verbal assaults on him by Mr Rees-Mogg for “fearmongering”. BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: “Jacob Rees-Mogg’s latest insult about Dr David Nicholl is utterly disgraceful and totally irresponsible.
“Highly experienced doctors like David Nicholl who decide to speak out about risks to life and patient care, should be supported and listened to, not attacked and derided by those who hold positions of responsibility.
“This unwarranted attack is particularly galling as Mr Rees-Mogg belongs to the same government that called upon Dr Nicholl’s expertise to help draft medical opinion for Operation Yellowhammer and who also wrote the mitigations for the event of a no-deal.”
Sky News reported this morning that, after coming under fire including from chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies, Jacob Rees-Mogg apologised for the comparison with Andrew Wakefield.
Picture: Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg. Image courtesy of Government Digital Service (Open Government Licence v3.0)