Northern Ireland

CMO 'personally appalled' by Dr Anne McCloskey's 'anti-vaccine' video and welcomes investigation into suspended medic

Derry GP Dr Anne McCloskey has been suspended from practice while an investigation takes place
Derry GP Dr Anne McCloskey has been suspended from practice while an investigation takes place

NORTHERN Ireland's most senior doctor last night said he was "personally appalled" by the anti-vaccine video posted by a Derry GP who has been suspended from practising medicine.

Dr Anne McCloskey, a former Aontú councillor, expressed concerns in a social media video about young people being given the vaccine.

Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Sir Michael McBride also warned of the "great distress" caused by comments made by Dr McCloskey on social media after she inferred vaccinations were causing young people to become seriously ill - and falsely claimed "unapproved" vaccines were an "experimental genetic therapy".

Following complaints by GP colleagues about the weekend post, the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) yesterday moved to suspend Dr McCloskey as a "precautionary measure" as an investigation continues into "complaints and concerns against this doctor".

The veteran GP retired in 2019 after more than 30 years working in the Shantallow area of the city but returned to the health service last April in response to the pandemic workforce appeal.

Dr McCloskey has been based in an out-of-hours GP centre in Derry for more than a year.

The Irish News yesterday asked the HSCB who had taken the decision to continue Dr McCloskey's employment after she publicly denounced masks and the health service's handling of the pandemic in Derry's Guildhall Square last September.

She was also referred to her professional body, the General Medical Council, about her views at the time.

The HSCB did not address the query but instead confirmed the suspension.

A spokeswoman added: "Suspension is not an automatic occurrence when undertaking an investigation but may be necessary where there are concerns regarding patient safety and in the public interest.

"Dr McCloskey is not free to work for HSC organisations during her suspension."

In a statement to The Irish News, the CMO said he welcomed the board's investigation.

"I was personally appalled by the contents of this video and professionally extremely concerned," Sir Michael McBride said.

“I know it has caused great distress to many members of the public and to health care workers, who know the reality of the Covid threat and the importance of vaccination.

“The evidence on the effectiveness of the vaccines is irrefutable. On behalf of the health service, I would like to thank everyone who has come forward to get their jab and would urge others to do so without delay."

A west Belfast GP also spoke of his "frustration" at Dr McCloskey's comments but said that in every profession you will get a small minority with "marginalised views" which were misinformed.

"Medicine is no different and it is really up to to the majority of those in the mainstream profession to counter those views with real evidence," Dr Michael McKenna said.

"What we're getting from this particular doctor is evidence being portrayed from her perspective as opposed to a perspective that is balanced.

"It's hugely frustrating that a person who is supposed to be an intelligent and reasonable individual, and who is able to balance not doing so because of their particular belief systems.

"If you're practising in the NHS, it's drummed into you from your student days that you trust and use the evidence."

Dr McKenna also said the development highlighted the difficulties around social media giants allowing "fake news" to be posted. The video has since been taken down from Facebook.

"The vast majority of doctors and nurses and midwives who are working really hard to get the right messages across are meeting with a brick wall because it's hard to change an entrenched view within an entrenched mind," he added.

**In yesterday's Irish News, it was reported that Dr McCloskey is a member of pro-life party Aontú. However the former councillor resigned her seat in October 2020.