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Wednesday 31 July 2013

Telegraph’s Organised NHS Assault

Some of the knocking copy directed at the NHS is beginning to abandon all pretence of objectivity, such is the obsession of the right-leaning part of the commentariat to do damage. This can be seen at its most blatant in the Maily Telegraph, which long ago ceased to be a paper of record, in its highly organised attempt to frighten readers over the so-called “Friends and Family” test data.
Before any figures had been released – note the similarity with the pre-emptive strike before the release of the Keogh Review – Political Editor (note title) Robert Winnett told readers “Patients treated at many NHS hospital wards would not recommend the care they received to their friends and families, official figures will disclose tomorrow”. So a heads up, people, it’s going to be bad.

And how bad would it be? “It is understood that many NHS wards received ‘negative’ scores, with less than 50 per cent of patients recommending treatment”. So, got that, readers? “Many NHS wards”. Sounds like a lot. This was a most convenient intervention, and it was also deliberately misleading, because when the actual figures were released, they did not justify the initial frightener.

But the headline yesterday was apocalyptic anyway: “NHS shame: 36 wards so bad patients would warn friends and family to stay away”. Can we perhaps have some detail on that? “36 wards were given a negative score in June”. Meaning what, exactly? Well, on balance, meaning that those who responded to the questionnaire would be less likely to recommend the ward to others.

And what about “warn friends and family to stay away”? Actually, no, that didn’t happen. And what is tucked away further down the article – to be read by the few who haven’t already made up their minds – is another small factette: this is 36 out of 4,500, or rather less than 1%. Moreover, eight of those 36 depended on just one respondent. The corroborated total (28) is two thirds of one per cent.

But that’s enough for the pundits to pile in: Tory MP Chris Skidmore, who put his name to the assertion “Once they enter the workplace, the British are the worst idlers in the world”, penned an opinion piece asking “Are you listening, Andy Burnham?”, showing that attempts to dump any NHS shortcomings on someone who left office more than three years ago are still continuing.

And, as the man said, there’s more: Cristina Odone wailed “How many more people have to die before we stop worshipping at the NHS shrine?” on the basis of nothing but the prejudice of someone going private and under editorial orders. Philip Johnston wailed “How much more can the NHS take before it cracks?”, but the Tel might more usefully ask how much longer its readers will believe this crap.

We know what the right wants to do with the NHS, thanks. The record’s stuck again.

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