At 06.26am on Tuesday 22nd November, still dark outside, BBC Reporting Scotland opened with:
‘A BBC Scotland investigation has found that thousands of incidents have taken place in Scotland’s maternity wards since 2011 ranging from minor mistakes to major errors leading to the deaths of mothers or their babies.’
Just imagine how you’d feel hearing that if you were a midwife or an expectant mother or even a close relative or friend of either? If that’s evidence of a real crisis, then urgent action is needed. If it’s not, then BBC Scotland should pay a heavy price for the most disgusting piece of scaremongering ever.
Amongst the many things the TV broadcast report at 06:26am, did not mention, crucially, is actually on the BBC website version of the story:
‘The Scottish government pointed out that in 2015 the country had recorded its lowest level of stillbirths. Health Secretary Shona Robison also said that there were fewer neonatal deaths and fewer maternal deaths.’
These comments above came after a BBC Scotland Freedom of Information (FOI) request into the number of “adverse events” taking place in maternity units. Crucially, the BBC has put together no formal report here that we can examine. There are no comparative statistics telling us anything meaningful about maternity care in Scotland just sensationalist rotten cherry picking of the kind you’d expect from the Daily Mail.
In this period from 2011, there were ‘serious cases’ (‘adverse events’?) with 26 deaths of newborns, 79 stillbirths and three mothers died. BBC Scotland did not mention that these awful events happened within a total figure of around 250 000 births, in the same period (http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2014/01/8489/8). So even if we combine the deaths of newborns and the stillbirths we have a mortality-rate due to ‘adverse event’ of 0.042%.
The website version also gives us these salacious details but they are not set in the context of the overall number of births and thus percentage figure. I have.
- A pregnant woman involved in a “radiation incident”; 0.0004%
- A newborn baby died due to a spinal cord injury following a forceps delivery; 0.0004%
- Five reports of staff behaving inappropriately or in a hostile manner; 0.002%
- Three occasions in 2013 at one hospital when medical equipment “failed” during an operation; 0.0012%
- More than a dozen [how many then?] medication-related events at one health board including instances where the wrong medication was given, the wrong dosage was administered, and where the medication wasn’t administered at all. 0.0048%
Presenting these incidents as somehow indicative of a wider crisis rather than what they really are, incredibly rare, unavoidable in any system, freak incidents, is utterly irresponsible and so far from any kind of professionalism it beggars belief. I’ve been accused before of suggesting that BBC scare stories about NHS Scotland might actually be putting vulnerable people off approaching reportedly very busy and highly stressed staff and consequently causing deaths. You’ll know that fitness for work testing has now been shown to have caused many suicides amongst disabled people. So, has BBC Scotland’s merciless scare-mongering and flawed reporting, over several years now, about NHS Scotland, caused deaths? Almost certainly it has. As for morale amongst midwives, I can only wonder.
For a reminder of how bad news in the early morning is the most effective propaganda, see: