21 October 2011

News Corporation Annual Shareholders Meeting

by Matt Wells 

News Corporation annual shareholder meeting – live

Rupert and James Murdoch


Rupert Murdoch is facing a revolt at News Corporation's annual meeting over its handling of the phone hacking scandal. Follow developments live HERE
 Dan Sabbagh, Guardian's head of media and technology writes:

"Expect also plenty of theatre along the way. Shareholders and press are being bussed into the Fox studio lot where the meeting is taking place. Tom Watson, the Labour MP, has flown over from the UK to try and challenge the Murdochs at the meeting with the help of proxy vote on behalf of the American labour union, the AFL-CIO. There will be questions from the floor from investors, as well as Watson if he gets his way."
Tom Watson, shareholder, on bus to News Corp AGM

20 October 2011

Reasons to be cheerful at the Midstaffs inquiry.

At the end of the seminar held at Leeds on information in the NHS the Chairman Robert Francis said that the day had cheered him up. I shared this feeling.
We heard from people who are actively using information technology now within the NHS to drive up the quality of care.  There is a quiet revolution in progress. 
We heard how in 2000 Information technology was still in its infancy. We heard about the long time lags between events and the eventual statistics, and the very variable quality of data. All this meant  meant that clinicians did not have any trust in the emerging early systems, of which HSMR is an example.  We heard about the problems of Clinicians accepting information that was provided to them by outside agencies, and how important it is for clinicians to feel they own the information.
We heard how the speed of the information revolution has been accelerating, over the last four to five years.
The people who presented papers to the seminar included Professor Martin Elliot form Great Ormond street and Dr Dave Rosser from University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation trust. They are both part of organisations that have completely bought into the use of information.

Great Ormond street did this by closing an intensive care bed, to fund the project. The savings and quality improvements that they have made through good information have now made it possible for them to fund two intensive care beds.  

Birmingham has 16 analysts who work on giving the clinicians real time information. They allowing the clinicians to develop the indicators that they believe they need and help them use these systems to improve quality. This is paying off both in terms of quality of care and demand for their services.         
The work they are doing is remarkable.
The trail to the seminar that I heard on BBC Radio 4 Today
http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_9618000/9618445.stm  told us that one of the things the Birmingham system can do is to issue prompts to ensure that nurses do not miss giving doses of medication to patients.  This is a remarkably common problem within the NHS. Giving antibiotics or insulin late does cost lives.

This system is particularly relevant to the Midstaffs story because the Gillian Astbury Case, is one of small number of symbolic cases that Cure the NHS have pursued. This is an all too common case of an elderly lady with dementia and diabetes who did not get the specialist diet that a dietician had prescribed, and died because she had not received insulin at the right intervals.  Failure to administer insulin on time is common throughout the NHS wherever hospitals are relying on paper based note systems.  Dr Rosser reckons that potentially 16,000 lives a year can be saved by using his prompt systems.
We also heard about decision support systems, which act as guides to help doctors and nurses through their decision making processes. When this was first implemented the analysts were surprised by the 400 occasions a day where the system was challenging the course of action that the clinician was planning to take, though they point out that this represents only 1.8% of the clinical decisions that are made. I in 10 people in hospital currently experience an adverse incident. These information systems have done the work to understand how many common errors are made, and to help eliminate them by supporting doctors and burses better.
Dr Rosser also told us about their system to cut MRSA.  If a swab tests positive then as soon as it is entered on the system the ward is alerted by an email message. Action to prevent spread of the infection can be started within seconds, rather than the 30 hours that was common when they used paper based systems. This saves lives.
Dr Rosser showed us a series of graphs where the information systems had alerted the hospital and clinical teams to opportunities for improvement. There are two key ingredient in making the system work. There are the statistics, and there are face to face round table meetings with staff on a regular basis when they look at the issues raised, challenge each other where there are weaknesses  and decide collectively on the action to be taken. The Birmingham graphs show a dramatic story of what happens when a problem is identified and the clinical teams take a concerted effort to make a significant change.  You get a “step change” where you can see the shape of the graph change radically. Whenever that happens it means many individual patients get a far better service.  
What makes me cheerful about all these developments is that it shows that getting information right can move us from a position where we a seeking to punish individuals for failings so far after the event that no one really knows what happened, to using information to support decision making, help people get it right first time, and allowing clinicians to drive a process of continuous improvement.
A good aspect of this is that it cannot possibly be seen as political. This is about harnessing the new potential of information systems and combining it with the real creativity of some of the brilliant analysts that we have within the NHS.  Everyone should support these developments.
There is a bit of politics though!  Birmingham has offered to release their system free, to get it in use throughout the country and start saving lives. The government wish it to be issued on a commercial basis.

The seminar papers will be available on the Midstaffs Inquiry website in the future.

14 October 2011


As I write this, there is really not much else contained within the political pages of the broadsheets this morning. I can hardly believe that we’re still reading the revelations that are spilling out and yet Fox  still remains in his job. Isn’t this embarrassing for the Conservative party..   and how will Cameron be judged for letting this matter carry on for so long ?  But why has it carried on for so long? 
One thing that some of us may have forgotten is that Dr. Liam Fox was,  and still remains,  a strong Thatcherite.  The Conservative right hold him in great affection, and view Cameron  as a liberal Tory.  The Telegraph has never truly backed Cameron,  much preferring the Thatcherite politicians.   Therefore, before taking drastic action, Cameron really needs the cards to stack up against Fox and that is certainly what is happening this morning!   And to give Cameron the opportunity he has required, the Telegraph has come out with some force against Fox this morning.  Even that paper can’t stomach much more of Fox !  At the end of the day, the Telegraph will put the party first.  I wonder if Cameron will… 

Strange, though, how the Tories cling on, with all their might,  to what they hold with affection…  even to some detriment.  They never learn, such is their arrogance.

Anyone watching BBC Question Time last evening will have noticed how much cynicism, mistrust and dislike there was from the audience towards the Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley.  Not much affection there then… 

As the programme began, Lansley sat there with a smug expression on his face as if he might be thinking  “I got the bill through the Lords, nothing can touch me now”.  Well if that is what he was thinking, he couldn’t have been more wrong… 

Oh yes, the first question was about Fox & Werritty..  that will have put him in the comfort zone …  Then  bang ! The boxing gloves came out ! 

Not towards Fox & Werritty though – aimed at Lansley ! Well and truly.  The next 30 minutes were taken up by the audience asking serious and sincere questions about the potential collapse of the National Health Service.  If anyone was in any doubt whether the NHS is a beloved part of British life, then they will no longer be mistaken after watching that programme.   

From the Guardian this morning:

"NHS cuts protesters demand Lansley resignation at BBC filming – video

Protesters angry about reforms and cuts to the NHS last night marched on a university theatre, to demonstrate against the health secretary, Andrew Lansley's appearance on the BBC politics programme Question Time, which was being filmed there"  

Video link from Guardian here.

What remains to be seen is if this mistrust and cynicism continues.  As we see privatisation take over, profits come before patients,  I don’t think it will merely continue – I believe it will grow.

But the press just hasn’t touched the public mood in response to the changes that this government is intent on introducing.  And they wonder why fewer people are buying their rags?  When will these editors and newspaper owners realise that people don’t want lies and bias – they want the papers to reflect their views, their feelings…   To quote an old adage – it isn’t exactly rocket science is it ?    However, praise where praise is due – there has been some good investigative journalism this week regarding Fox & Werritty.  Maybe all is not lost after all.

 And as a result, perhaps, the fight for Fox to retain his position as Secretary of State for Defence may well be nearing the end, but there is no mistake that the fight for the soul of the NHS is near the end…  in fact I feel the fight might even just be about to commence! 

by Mags W.

12 October 2011

LEVESON INQUIRY - Day 2 - Seminar 2

Coverage of Day 1 to be found here.

Leveson Inquiry panel (for details see Day 1 Leveson Inquiry post)

Seminar 2 - Approaches to regulation - a supporting free press and high standards

Contributors today include Paul Dacre - Daily Mail, Kelvin MacKenzie - former Sun Editor, Sly Bailey - Trinity Mirror, Will Moy - Director of Full Fact

Also follow #leveson on Twitter for frequent updates by attendees and commentators.

Paul Dacre, Daily Mail
BBC News - Video -  Phone-hacking: Daily Mail's Paul Dacre Defends PCC

BBC News - Video - Paul Dacre Rails Against Regulation

On Dacre by Guardian Live blog:
'Some more gems from Paul Dacre's speech.
"I unequivocally condemn phone hacking ... such practices are a disgrace and need to be purged from journalism." The revelations about the activities at the News of the World "shocked and shamed up all," he said, and reforms need to be instigated "to prevent such criminal activities ever happening again".
But Dacre urges the inquiry and the public to keep the phone-hacking scandal in perspective.
"Britain's cities weren't looted as a result; banks didn't collapse as a result ... the nation didn't go to war, yet the response has been a judicial inquiry with greater powers than those possessed by the public inquiries into the Iraq war."
"Am I alone in detecting the rank smells of hypocrisy and revenge?" he asked in relation to David Cameron's motives for setting up the inquiry.'
Full Text Paul Dacre's Speech - Guardian
Guardian Audio of Paul Dacre's speech here. 

Reaction - October 13th

Stephen Hill, former CEO Financial Times
 Guardian Live blog on Stephen Hill:
 "He is making some interesting points about corporate governance - it it is to work all newspapers need to pull together and ensure no-one falls out of line.
"If one competitor is assiduous and the other is not, then over time one may be disadvantaged and be tempted to change [its behaviour]," he says.
"The key element of corporate government is consistency and transparency
"If we are to review ethical standards, we need to sure the standards are common to all participants,"
Hill also gives some valuable insight into the workings of TV regulation - he spent six years on Channel 4 board
The code of conduct for TV producers "is not enough" on its own, experience shows. "What really matters are the policy and procedures that each company creates to ensure compliance."
Channel 4, for example, produces a handbook distributed to 3,000 independent producers; it also holds masterclasses for its suppliers to ensure they are aware of the laws and procedures."
Sly Bailey, Trinity Mirror
Bailey from Guardian Live blog:

" Sky (sic) Bailey says the risk system at Trinity Mirror works well.
"In the hundreds of thousands of stories that Trinity Mirror publishes every year, we make very few mistakes," she told the Leveson seminar. "
"Bailey revealed that the company's recent review of editorial controls and procedures found that its internal controls were "robust". She didn't give many details, but said some areas however, would be strengthened as a result of the review across Trinity's 165 newspapers and 500 websites.
"These include training, legal oversight, expectations of third party suppliers and digital controls."
"Proper processes lead to proper behaviour and need not limit creativity," were her concluding words."

Full Speech from Will Moy of Full Fact 

"It’s not just newspapers. Individual journalists can be excellent too. Journalists from both the Guardian and the Daily Mail have replied to correction requests, explained problems and arranged corrections. Both blamed sub-editors for the inaccuracies.
Unfortunately these are exceptional examples. What usually happens is that there is no specific contact for dealing with corrections, we cannot contact the journalist or we get no reply, we get no reply from the newspaper using any contact we can find, so we give up and go to the PCC."
"What do we conclude from this? Some journalists really care about the standards in the Code. They work at all kinds of papers and they would probably care about those same standards whether the Code existed or not. Some newspapers really care about the Code too. Overall, though, newspapers cannot be trusted to regulate themselves and that is why a regulator is essential."
2.22 p.m. Lisa O'Carroll, Guardian writes:
"Welcome back. Paul Dacre's speech was the talk of lunch and it will be a tough act, even for Kelvin MacKenzie to follow.I was talking to George Brock, former managing editor of the Times, during the break. What was brilliant about Dacre's speech, Brock said, was that it was full of noise and bangs, but when the smoke cleared there were two amazing concessions - an acceptance that a system that including financial penalties for errant newspapers might work and an acceptance that the PCC wasn't perfect and could be improved.
The latter point is very significant, given that Dacre has been such a champion of the PCC in the past. The new system of co-regulation Dacre is proposing - and we have his full speech now to allow us absorb what he said in full - would include an Ombudsman which have the power to summon editors and journalists and impose fines"
Live blog from the Guardian continued - here.

Kelvin MacKenzie, formerly of the Sun, now Daily Mail
Kelvin MacKenzie's speech from Evening Standard: 

BBC News - Kelvin MacKenzie Video of Speech

"This is the way in which our Prime Minister is hopeful he can escape his own personal lack of judgment. He knows, and Andy knows, that he should never have been hired into the heart of government. I don't blame Andy for taking the job. I do blame Cameron for offering it.
It was clearly a gesture of political friendship aimed over Andy's head to Rupert Murdoch. If it wasn't that then Cameron is a bloody idiot. A couple of phone calls from Central Office people would have told him that there was a bad smell hanging around the News of the World."
"The point of my anecdotes is to show that this inquiry should decide there is nothing wrong with the press, that we should enshrine free speech in Cameron's planned Bill of Rights and accept the scandal was simply a moment in time when low-grade criminality took over a newspaper.
If anything, the only recommendation that should be put forward by Leveson is one banning by law over- ambitious and under-talented politicians from giving house room to proprietors who are seeking commercial gain from their contacts. In tabloid terms, arse kissing will be illegal. Should have an interesting passage through Parliament
Do that and you will have my blessing - and I suspect the blessing from Rupert Murdoch, too."

Ben Fenton