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The Curious Case of the Coales that Burnt in the Night

Posted by Dr No on 21 November 2011

google_coales.jpgThose who follow the UK medical blogosphere will already be well aware of the curious case of Dr Una Coales, the Korean Missile currently disguised as a locum GP. A prolific, out-spoken, self-promoting and self-publishing writer, with ambitions to become the RCGP’s next president (small fry, given that she is already, according to her twitter page, ‘Conservative Health Secretary’), she has brought a world of fury upon her shoulders for – allegedly – shopping the identity of a person or persons unknown as the real Dr Rant, late of the blogosphere, to the police – or perhaps the GMC, or even both. Within hours, other bloggers started going out, like bulbs on a set of Christmas tree lights. A better known Heat Seeking Missile has weighed in heavily, and told us in no uncertain terms that it is our own stupid, indolent fault that our lights are going out. Her comments as of now lie, steaming like elephant dung roadblocks, at the bitter end of more than one post on the matter. No doubt a similar steamer will be dumped here before too long.

The case’s curiousness stems from two related factors. The first is the amount of steam that has already been generated, given how little we really know. The turtle’s head of (mis?)information first appeared on a doctors-only forum, DNUK, and all too soon a long rancid coil of a post uncurled itself, a coil maybe fresh on the nose, but bulked more by bran than berries of truth. Dr No has studied its steaming length, and is none-the-wiser, in any certain sense. Were he Ray Mears, he wouldn’t even be sure which animal, or animals, it came from.

Then we have comments on Dr Zorro’s post – flounces of faux-outrage, and, in one, the curious but absolute certainty that a certain anonymous commenter was in full possession of the facts:

“Oh Suddenly doctors net is the oracle of truth. I know both Dr Coales and Dr Rant and I can promise you Dr Coales has not reported Dr rant or any contributer to Dr Rant for anything written on Dr Rant. I know this for a fact.”

This curious anonymous comment doesn’t just tell us Dr Coales is innocent of the alleged assault of free speech, it promises us that it is so, and adds, for the further avoidance of doubt, ‘I know this for a fact’.

But another contradictory and curious fact is that we know Dr Coales did report two male NHS doctors to the police for cyber bullying. Even more curiously, the statement has disappeared from her website, and google’s full cache, but as of yesterday evening a snippet was still visible (see image above, full size image here) in which she says:

“With the support of the Met Police, I have reported 2 male NHS doctors for 'a history of repeat cyberbullying and making nasty personal derogatory and offensive comments about doctor colleagues.' The detective sergeant has confirmed today…”

Now, we do not know whether those ‘2 male NHS doctors’ had anything to do with Dr Rant – they may have done, in which case the anonymous commenter on Dr Z’s blog was barking out of his or her backside. Or maybe they don’t, in which case, the commenter may (or may not) have been right, and we are left with the uncomfortable possibility that Dr Coales may (or may not) make a habit of shopping doctors (mostly males, one supposes) whose behaviours she disapproves of to the police (and/or the GMC – we just don’t know).

Dr No, for one, were he a GP, would not be sure whether he would want such a zealous authoritarian – who is curiously stridently anti-revalidation - presiding over his college. But that is neither here nor there. What is, is the other curious thing about the Coales that burnt in the night: why did she burn that section from her post? It was definitely there five days ago: and now it is not.


November - Dr Una Coales's Blog, blogging about doctors, family ...
5 days ago – With the support of the Met Police, I have reported 2 male NHS doctors for 'a history of repeat cyberbullying and making nasty personal derogatory and offensive comments about doctor colleagues.' The detective sergeant has confirmed today she will be issuing a verbal warning for harassment to these 2 ...

Anonymous - thanks. When Dr No opens the url you give, he does not find the relevant text, although the relevant post (Wed 16th Nov 2011 "Why I am re-running for President of the Royal College of GPs") is there - ie it is the redacted version. When he checks google's cache for its version of that page, he finds it currently dated 11th Nov - ie before the relevant post...

Clearly, though, you have a fuller version, which carries on beyond the "The detective sergeant has confirmed today..." the snippet Dr No found ends with. Depending on how you have your local caching set up, it may be that the version you are seeing is perhaps a locally cached one (in which case you might want, depending on your interest in the matter, to save/pdf it before it gets over-written!).

Dr No notes that Dr Coales has, perhaps predictably, replied at length on her blog to the allegations and remarks made against her. She accuses Dr Zorro and Dr No of cyber bullying, in particular "spreading false gossip, lies and posting obscenities" about her. As she - curiously - does not allow commenting on her blog, Dr No has taken the liberty of replying here.

As regular readers of Dr No will know, Dr No is as a rule not in the habit of "spreading false gossip, lies and posting obscenities". Indeed, a careful reading of the post above (and of comments he has made elsewhere, including on Dr Zorro's blog) will reveal that he has been as scrupulous as he can be to stick to what we do know, and deflate that which was, indeed, quite possibly (we simply didn't know at the time, although now, on her blog, Dr Coales has now given her account, and it appears she did have a hand in Dr Rant's shutdown), false gossip and lies.

Apart from the mildest obscenity in the title of the comment above, Dr No does not see any obscenity in this post. There may be play on words, and allusions and euphemisms, but that is simply what Dr No does.

Readers of Dr No's blog will also know that he is also very firmly against intrusive over-regulation (not to mention revalidation) by the GMC, and harassment of whistleblowers in general. Indeed one of his very early posts (Constructive Erasure) was about GMC excesses destroying a doctor's career.

Dr Coales also alleges 'mocking and name-calling'. There is in fact a long and welcome tradition in British writing of calling public figures - and Dr Coales is a public figure, in that she seeks to become the next president of the RCGP - names, sometimes not entirely to the individual's credit. But Dr No thinks British journalism would be a sadder sorrier place if we did not have Paddy Pantsdown or Mrs Hacksaw (Snatcher Thatcher for those who weren't around at the time) to lighten our days. So he has no intention of dropping his habit of giving people nick-names, more often than not intended to highlight a trait than indulge in blunt mockery, when he feels it makes sense to do so. Indeed, the way Dr Coales has gone off like a rocket in that post of hers suggests calling her a Korean missile might be only the half of it!

Lastly - and not inconsistently with the above: if Dr No has caused Dr Coales personal distress, he apologises unreservedly. He is not in the business of causing gratuitous personal distress. But the other side of that coin is that what Dr Coales does in the public arena is in the public domain, and is fair game for comment - just as that which Dr No writes and puts in the public domain is also fair game - and so he bears Dr Coales no animosity for posting as she has.

Note: Dr Coales has correctly pointed out a typo. Dr No did accidently post: "and Dr Coales is a public figure, in that she seeks to become the next president of the GMC" when it should of course (as Dr No has correctly stated elsewhere) have been "and Dr Coales is a public figure, in that she seeks to become the next president of the RCGP".

Dr No apologises, and has corrected the error.

Dr Coales's blog today contains more on the subject of cyber-bullying, and includes a number of assertions about DNUK and its moderators, which appear to be largely erroneous. Dear me. I am sure this is an unfortunate misunderstanding and will be corrected as soon as possible. Curiously, one cannot comment on the blog itself to draw attention to the mistakes. What a shame.

Is this some kind of Vogon language turned upside down?


Well cyber bullying is unpleasant and potentially unlawful. Do any of you have a problem with it being unlawful? IF people were bullied on DNUK to the extent that the police are minded to take action then it seems reasonable to report them. All this freedom of speech bollocks seems self righteous and self serving. There has never been an abosolute right to free speech and to the extent that it hurts others there should not be. Even JS Mill would agree with that.

"All this freedom of speech bollocks seems self righteous and self serving" ......... really?

What Dr Coales calls cyber bullying, Dr No calls legitimate challenging of questionable behaviour by those who seek (medico-) political office. One post calling into question Dr Coales's public behaviour cannot for a moment be considered cyber bullying.

Dr Coales has made it clear (twitter) that she would like the law to stamp down hard on the likes of Dr No. To some, that might seem a bit like asking the state to do the bullying for you.
But then, cosmopolitan Dr Coales holds many interesting views, some of which do not sit comfortably with Dr No. Why - she may even hold the view that HIGNFY is unpatriotic, and lets the side down!

Dr No knows which side he is on when it comes to these things.

And to those who say this is a trivial bun fight - yes, it is trivial, to the same extent that gagging clauses, authorities stamping down on dissident opinion, and trampling on whistleblowers is trivial.

Do GPs really want a chief pongo who's preferred method of discourse is prompt referral to the authorities?

Footnote: Dr Coales alleges cyber bullying, and like many who have a tendency to rely of ready recourse to the law, she likes to quote Wikipedia as an authoritative source. The wikipedia page in question starts with a barrage of ! ? ?© notes but once one has weathered that storm, the definition of cyber bullying is:

"the use of information and communication technologies to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behavior by an individual or group, that is intended to harm others".

Yes, Dr No does deliberately use IT as a medium to publish his writing. But he does not, and has not, used it to support 'repeated hostile behaviour' (there is but this one post about Dr Coales, and it is questioning, not deliberately hostile) that is 'intended to harm others' (Dr No does not intend to harm anyone, but he does consider it legitimate to question the behaviour of those who seek high office).

If any harm does come about, it will be because those who seek high office have brought it on their own heads.

The point I was trying to make about free speech is that it is being sighted as a fig leaf for cyber bullying.
Hitchens in his Christ Church speech,I'm sure deliberately, misinterprets the hackneyed example of crying fire in a crowded theatre. He has interpreted it with his example of American Jewish immigrant opposition the 1st World War (incidentally America did eventually enter the war on the evidence of a single piece of uncorroborated (British) intelligence- they never did anything like that again did they ); that is to say as the case of people issuing a warning, albeit an unwelcome one. In fact the example is normally cited to consider the case of someone who maliciously and falsely calls 'fire' with the intent of causing panic and thereby harm to others. It is a common opinion, including my own, that this latter circumstance is wrong and should be subject to legal redress.
I completely agree however with pretty much everything he says. I t is a long time since I have read Mill who is hard going, but I think Hitchens is spot on when he highlights the importance of unwelcome and heretical opinions to the listeners. Even if opinions are wrong it does us all good to have existing opinions and prejudices challenged.
Regarding Cyber bullying: 1) like all forms of bullying, it is an activity calculated to cause harm and distress. It is practiced by people who take pleasure from such activity and
2) It is actually the enemy of free speech. It is a form of intimidation which inhibits decent people from expressing their view for fear of being hounded.
For these reasons it is, in my view to unacceptable to cite ‘free speech’ as a defence of bullying.

What seems to have happened here is that someone has attempted to stand up against bullying which is evil. Perhaps she could have expressed herself better but...
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing

That's all very well Dr No but, as I understand it, Dr Coales's campaign, if I can call it that, was against cyber bulling in not by you. Taken in isolation your posting cannot and should not be interpreted as likely to cause harm. I am sure that it was not intended to cause harm in any circumstances. However it is clear that the barrage of postings taken together have caused considerable distress if only by evidence of the rather incoherent blog. Your posting and associated links have, however unwittingly, been part of that. By continuing in this vein you run the danger of being accused of knowingly participating in this witch hunt.
Are you seriously arguing that bullying does not take place in particularly the GP forums which seem to attract a remarkably large number of non GP’s. What are you doing, Burke might ask, to curb the excesses of that environment? A degree of charity would become you

"Well cyber bullying is unpleasant and potentially unlawful. Do any of you have a problem with it being unlawful? IF people were bullied on DNUK to the extent that the police are minded to take action then it seems reasonable to report them. All this freedom of speech bollocks seems self righteous and self serving. There has never been an abosolute right to free speech and to the extent that it hurts others there should not be. Even JS Mill would agree with that"

R v Curtis - no course of conduct can be established in a dispute. I have fought two cases of defamation involving the internet Pal v DNUK and Adoko v Pal. I can safely say Una Coles is essentially wrong in her analysis. Secondly, the police often have no idea what they are doing :). They would normally just react to someone with influence.

The case law on freedom of expression is very clear. The test is not a subjective one [ I feel distress], the test is an objective one. I have quoted the relevant case law on Dr Zorro's website.

I find UC's material highly unstructured, subjective, emotive, reactive and it lacks evidence. By evidence I mean this - she offers no particulars, protocols she is reliant on, no rationale. It comes across as "I think therefore I am".

Lastly, Dr No, I have asked the two other bloggers to offer me a translation of the vogon diatribe offered as a defence to you. I am happy to break and dissect her entire arguments using case law and rationality.

With Best Wishes

Rita Pal

Dr No

Please answer the question - why does Dr UC always "feel" cyberbullied?


"if Dr No has caused Dr Coales personal distress, he apologises unreservedly"

Does he? :) :) :). What does an admission mean at the GMC. Does anyone know or shall we go through lesson 1. Make your mistake, you disclosed your own identity to the GMC some time ago.


Sam - Dr Coales has included Dr No in her 'campaign' - see her blog and twitter pages. The 'incoherent' character you note is in fact so far as Dr No can see her normal style, which pre-dates the current postings.

And - while on the matter of her blogs, her tweets (and her DNUK presence) (and note Dr No is only describing behaviour here), he does find her habit of playing fast and loose with the delete button, her breaking of DNUK confidentiality, her proclaimed intent to join DNUK to find out grass roots opinion while at the same time not allowing comments on her own blog - a sure-fire way of getting opinions - all rather unfortunate, smacking as it does of that which some might call more than a touch of control-freakery (see footnote).

Anonymous (and Sam) - Dr No is of course against personal bullying, cyber or otherwise. And yes he does sometimes find material on DNUK to be not to his taste. But, unless and until there is unequivocal evidence of unjustified harm to a (private) individual (which in Dr No's view is unlikely to include (medico-) politicians, aspirant or otherwise, losing sleep over what is said about them), then, for the usual reasons, he prefers to live and let live.

Dr No's point is that his remarks (in just one post, although he does accept there might be an unintended cumulative barrage effect which he does not welcome) about the behaviour of an individual who has chosen to seek high office do not amount to bullying. It is not 'calculated to cause harm or distress'; nor does Dr No 'take pleasure' from it. He is not calling 'fire' - he is questioning the - in his view - heavy handed behaviour of an individual who has put herself forward for high office. As he legitimately asked in an earlier comment: do GPs really want a president who behaves as Dr Coales does? It is no different to asking whether the country wants a prime minister who behaves as Blair/Cameron does - and no one, I hope, would call that bullying.

Dr Coales appears to be lumping together everything that challenges her position, and calling it bullying. So to do risks throwing the baby of legitimate challenge and debate out with the bathwater of gratuitous insult.

Rita - thanks for clarifying the legal position (as you see it); and Dr No is sure you are right, so far as he can be as a layperson. He also understood that sometimes the police may go through the motions over harassment (two verbal warning as part of the work-up) as a convenient way of speeding up closure of a case - in other words, there may be little real investigation into the true nature of the harassment/distress concerned, which is largely 'taken as read'.

Like you (and indeed Sam notes it too), Dr No does find reading The Thoughts of President Coales a little tiring. One supposes it may be too many talents all going off at once. No doubt the other bloggers you have contacted will not be so blinded by the brilliance, and will be able to discern the true meaning.

Only Dr Coales can in truth answer the question of why she feels cyber bullied. Legitimate challenge, even offensive criticism does not by definition a bullying victim create - the victim has to 'do the feeling', so to speak. Elsewhere, Dr No has been described as 'the biggest c*nt in all this', and much more of this and he supposes he might start to 'feel' cyber bullied. But he doubts he will. And - and this is an important point - those who choose to play for high office automatically place themselves in a position to be challenged and - in Britain - harangued, barracked, called names, heckled and generally given a tough time of things. It's what we call politics; and by allowing it, it is just possible we may prevent what we see going on in too many Middle East countries today (Sam - NOT a jibe in your direction!).

Rita - your latest comment - yes, the GMC do know who Dr No is, but it wasn't Dr No who told them. And he does apologise for causing personal distress - but not for legitimately questioning behaviour.

Sam - "What are you doing, Burke might ask, to curb the excesses of that environment?" Yesterday, Dr Coales emailed Dr No. In his reply, he urged 'let sleeping dogs lie'. What has been said has been said (and apart from anything else is in google's cache, not to mention on hard disks up and down the land) and can't be reliably obliterated. But Dr Coales does not appear to want to let sleeping dogs lie; and that - frankly - is why this debate is running on.

Lastly - if we have to choose between offensive free speech, and self- or other-censored sanitised, neutered or no speech, then it has to be the former. Otherwise we make a mockery of the quote attributed to Burke.

And finally: as noted above, yesterday, Dr No urged letting sleeping dogs lie. In the interests of letting Rover gets some zeds, he plans no further posts or comments on the matter - with the only exception being in the event of a new, extraordinary development. Others are naturally free to comment here - this is an open blog as far as comments are concerned - or elsewhere as they wish, but Dr No does hope they will weigh the pros and cons of so doing before they hit the 'publish' button.

Footnote (added immediately prior to publication, and not in anyway meant to contradict the last paragraph above): to which list we may now add post-hoc editing and selective quotation. Dr Coales's yesterday post now has: "I have emailed Dr No also to stop posting false gossip (I am NOT running for 'President of the GMC' and I did NOT 'shop the identities of Dr Rant to the police - or perhaps the GMC, or even both.'" On the former, it was a simple typo, noted and corrected (see above) as soon as Dr No was made aware of it; on the latter, Dr Coales omits the key word 'allegedly' (middle of paragraph one of the original post).

How does one lose the Presidency before the election. Wow.

Well Dr No, the prime stars in this spat have taken their bats home leaving us to discuss other more important matters.

So, lets talk about my potential suitors

1. You [really, we can't bring your cat to bed. You keep insisting]
2. Dr Zorro [spike of oestrogen plus electricity - my heart conduction is fragile]
3. Dr Rant [ He can wear his white coat and I can hold onto his steth]
4. Ferret [ bit too much hair for my liking]
5. Jobbing Doctor [ tempting to ruffle his ties ]

:). Thats my short list... what do you think?


My talents - I blow the whistle fairly well.

Better lay out. Structure is a lot better but its still too long. Maybe a episode a day would do. Plus we never have access to the actual posts by the doctors. We therefore have a one sided perspective.

She makes some interesting points. I am still more distracted by Dr Zorro's cape.


I understand something else may have happened, involving a certain lady doctor who thinks juniors should man up and not act too gay. I heard, on the grapevine, about a screeching fit, the throwing of some toys from a pram, the subsequent tendering of a hot-blooded and hasty resignation, followed by a more leisurely evaluation that perhaps the resignation was a bit too hasty and could she unresign, please...

I have no idea what is going to happen next, and I have no idea if there are any bridges still unburned.

HBC has indeed tweeted about resigning, and then unresigning, if Dr No read her tweets right (she is at the moment off-air, so we can't check), on the grounds she couldn't resign from an appointment - presumably the new term as a Council member, which starts on 17th November 2012 - which she is not yet in. She may or may not have a point.

Who in their right mind would publish such rubbish. I mean a whole page dedicated to discrediting the legendary Dr Una Coales... You guys need to get a life ASAP!!!

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