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Saturday 3 August 2013

NHS Shame – Of Press Coverage

After all the shock horror stories coming out of the Francis Report into the Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust, and the Keogh Review, one might expect the Fourth Estate to come down on any evidence of unnecessary deaths at the hands of health care suppliers like the proverbial tonne of bricks. But that has just happened, and most of the papers have ignored it, so you may not even have heard of the affair.
As the BBC and Independent reported yesterday, “The Surgicentre, based at the Lister Hospital in Stevenage, had its licence suspended in May”. And what kind of enterprise is that? “Services at the Surgicentre are currently provided and managed by a subsidiary of building company Carillion called Clinicenta”. This is a private health care provider – or rather, it was.

Because three patients have died there following what should have been routine surgery. How routine? “It provides routine surgery in areas such as ear, nose and throat, trauma, orthopaedics, gynaecology and ophthalmology for NHS patients referred there”. GPs had already been told, a year ago, not to refer patients to the facility’s eye department because of waiting times.

Now, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the target of much press ire, has suspended the Surgicentre’s licence. And guess what happens next? “It will be bought by the Department of Health for £53m and services will transfer to East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust”. Small wonder the press pack has been less than ready to tell its readers about that one.

Failures at Mount Alvernia included “a surgeon who operated without gloves in blood-stained shirt sleeves”, which, had this been an NHS Trust facility, would have had the why-oh-why brigade on the case in short order. At least, to its credit, the Mail joined the BBC and the deeply subversive Guardian in covering the case. But the Mail, and especially the Maily Telegraph, have been absent elsewhere.

That absence is over the recent “Family and Friends” survey, which the Telegraph span to infer that poor treatment was rife within the NHS, talking of 36 wards that had received a negative score. What the Tel didn’t let its readers know was that the overall patient satisfaction score, in the very same survey, was 99.2%. Instead, the Tel ran headlines like “NHS Shame”. How blatant is that?

Misreporting on healthcare is getting out of hand. And that’s not good enough.

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