The Sun has “resolved” a disagreement with King’s College Hospital after staff claimed one the paper’s reporters had impersonated the relative of an injured Grenfell Tower resident in an attempt to secure an interview.
The hospital said it had “formally written” to press regulator the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) to complain about the incident, which The Sun strongly disputed.
A spokesperson for the News UK-owned daily title has said the complaint has now been resolved and the IPSO complaint withdrawn.
They said: “On our part, we accepted there were crossed-wires, apologised for any disruption and discussed how we approach issues in the future.
“They accepted that our reporter did not ‘impersonate relatives’ or ‘friends’. As a result of this the hospital has withdrawn any IPSO complaint.”
King’s College hospital was one of six London wards to treat more than 70 victims of the 24-storey fire that has so far claimed 79 lives after it broke out on Wednesday last week.
The Sun was said to have organised an interview with Mario Gomes, a resident on the 21st floor of the tower, who had raced back into the building to find his 12-year-old daughter, the Guardian reported.
A spokesperson for the News UK-owned title told Press Gazette at the time: “The Sun wants to make it clear that no reporter has ‘impersonated’ any family members.
“The Sun was in contact with one of the people injured in the Grenfell fire, who provided a detailed phone interview for the newspaper. We then visited him in hospital to get a further interview and photos.
“On arrival the Sun reporter and photographer made hospital staff aware that they were present and had been in touch with the contact. However we were informed the contact had changed his mind on the interview and The Sun promptly left the hospital.
“We completely refute any accusation that our employees acted inappropriately and we condemn the inaccurate and hyperbolic reporting that these accusations have provoked.”
A Sun executive had added that the injured resident “had already provided us with a long interview that had provided the bulk of a double-page spread with him captioned ‘Superdad’.
“With that in mind why would a reporter even consider claiming to be a family member?
“We were in good contact, it makes no sense and it’s really galling and upsetting for everyone on the paper that someone has made this horrible accusation.”
The Sun is a member of IPSO and must therefore abide by the Editor’s Code of Practice. Serious breach of the code could see it face a fine of up to £1m.
The hospital’s IPSO complaint fell under clause eight of the code, on reporting in hospitals, which states: “Journalists must identify themselves and obtain permission from a responsible executive before entering non-public areas of hospitals or similar institutions to pursue enquiries.”
A spokesperson for King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said: “Any attempt to infringe upon the privacy of our patients or interrupt the duties of our staff is wholly unacceptable and will be always challenged.
“Following an incident at the hospital, a complaint was made to The Sun regarding the conduct of two of its staff. The Sun has accepted that protocol for media visits to the hospital was not followed on this occasion. They have apologised for the upset it caused and have agreed to follow established procedure in future.
“In light of The Sun’s apology, the Trust has withdrawn its complaint to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO).”
Press Gazette understands that the dispute occurred because The Sun arrived to interview a patient, as agreed with the individual concerned, but did not notify the hospital press office.
Picture: Reuters/Hannah McKay