1 February 2011

Can BBC substantiate their claims on Stafford Hospital?

Here we go again!

It was of course predictable that the Health and Social Care bill should bring Stafford Hospital back into the spotlight again. The public perception of what happened at Stafford, fostered by two years of press and media coverage, has been part of the "mood music" played by the Conservative party to justify the NHS reforms, with Stafford campaigners appearing on the party conference stage as evidence of the NHS at its worst.

There are certainly things within the bill that will help with the unique set of circumstances that existed in Stafford. The complaints structure was not strong enough to be able to satisfy a determined individual that their complaints had been fully addressed, so a system that is strong enough to be able to draw a line under a complaint is going to be good for all concerned.

For me the flash point when I see all these press stories regurgitating old material is my frustration that it appears to be impossible to stop the BBC using material which is factually inaccurate. This is their latest report.

Like most of the reports it refers to the numbers of excess deaths caused by poor care, with the claim that the Healthcare commission report says that 400-1200 people died as a result of poor care. This material has appeared in thousands of press and media reports.

It happens to be untrue. The Healthcare Commission report does not say this. The Robert Francis Independant Inquiry Clearly states that these figures are unsafe and the Public Inquiry has clearly indicated the source of these highly questionable "excess death figures".

More or Less, the Statistical programme broadcast by the BBC looks at the issue in some detail.

I have spent a lot of time and energy over the last two years asking the BBC and the press to produce the evidence for these figures. So far no one has obliged. The answer I normally get is "but everyone uses these figures!"

The details of all this are a very long story. I have written a detailed report which is currently with the Midstaffs Inquiry, The press complaints commission and the BBC. I will make more of this public in due course.

My concern at present is the way in which press, media and politics act as an echo chamber bouncing inaccurate material backwarks and forwards, and perpetuating misunderstanding.

I believe there is a need for a much higher standard of accuracy to avoid misreporting in the first place, and a need for a connected media complaints system, which is capable of dealing effectivly with an explosive, complex and political story which appears in a range of different places at once.

I have sent another in a series of complaints to the BBC

Factual Error or Inaccuracy
Excess death figures 400-1200 used in BBC report
do not come from Healthcare Commission report.

The BBC is continuing to make the claim that the Healthcare Commission
report on Stafford Hospital says that 400-1200 people died as a result of poor care in Stafford Hospital. This is not true. The report does not say this.

The figures are the result of a leak from an unidentified source, based on a misunderstanding of some flawed statistical material. The Robert Francis Public inquiry quite clearly states that the figures are unsafe.

I have also conducted extensive research which I have provided to the BBC to show the role played by the press and media in developing this story, This also looks at the role which the Conservative party may have played. The report that I have produced is currently also with the Press Complaints Commission and the Midstaffs inquiry.

Damage is being done to Healthcare in Stafford by this continued misreporting. There is a threat to downgrade the A&E services - due to the loss of public confidence which the misreporting has brought about.

It is time that the BBC took this matter seriously.

If anyone would like to help with this process I think it would be useful to
contact the BBC and ask them for the page reference in the Healthcare Commission
report which backs their claim of the excess deaths. It would also be useful to
know why they have not acted on the clear statement from the Midstaffs
Independant Inquiry that these figures are unsafe.