I’ve been researching and writing for some time now in an attempt to counter the imbalance in BBC Scotland news reporting. I’ve been especially concerned with their apparent willingness to concoct or to exaggerate problems in NHS Scotland as part of an agenda to undermine the reputation of the SNP Scottish Government. Their utterly unprofessional, cheap tabloid, report on maternity wards has set a new low for them and has reminded me of the risks for the health of their viewers that they are prepared to take in the pursuit of an ideological goal. Reporting accurately on problems in NHS and, of course, balancing that with reports of successes in the same service, would be a public service and professional journalism. However, their constant diet of fear, anxiety, incompetence, death and betrayal must be having some effect. The effect on midwife morale can only be guessed at.
See this from BBC Scotland in 2012:
‘The largest ever investigation into low-level mental health problems suggests it can shorten life expectancy. Researchers from the University of Edinburgh and University College London studied data from 68,000 adults. They found that even small amounts of stress and anxiety could lead to an early death.’
See this from fearof.net:
‘News, media reports or TV/Movies about hospital mishaps are also likely to lead to the phobia [of hospitals]. Unfortunately, this concern is not totally without basis- today medical malpractice and errors have become fairly routine occurrences. Even advanced countries are known to have mistakenly administered wrong drugs/treatments/procedures despite their best efforts. For people with nervous mind-sets or adrenal insufficiency or those already suffering from other phobias, such reports can induce a permanent fear of hospitals.’
Here’s the text of my complaint today to the BBC on their coverage of their own FOI request regarding maternity care in Scotland:
The headline phrase ‘reveals the scale of deaths of mothers and babies’ is both inaccurate and likely to suggest a crisis when there is no empirical evidence for such. Use of the word ‘scale’ requires either a ratio or a percentage figure to be used. None was. There were 284 456 live births in Scotland from 2011 so examples given must be set in the context of that for them to be meaningful and informative (your purpose).
So, when the reporter refers to 3 mothers, 79 stillborn and 26 baby deaths, the viewer needs to hear also what ratio or percentage these are of the total. So, presented properly we should have at least heard how many live births there were (284 456) and to be professional, that these represented only 0.001%, 0.027% and 0.009% of the total births.
I know the stillborn and baby deaths are not in the above total. Adding them would of course only make the percentages even smaller!
While the minister was able to mention, late on, ‘falling levels’, why did we not see the data showing an actual fall over the five years, from 5.1%, 4.7%, 4.2%, 4% to 3.8% for stillbirths and from 4.1%, 3.7%, 3.3%, 3.6% to 3.2% for infant deaths as this would have informed (your purpose) the viewers of evidence of a steady and encouraging fall.
We also heard of shortages of midwifery staff being ‘related to almost 500 incidents’. Do you mean that these shortages caused deaths? If so why not say so? Here’s what the RCN said this year: ‘services were not currently under threat, but may not be safe in future.’ Also, why did you not also contextualise and inform (your purpose) with this from Quality Watch: with Scotland having the lowest rate of 3.3 in 2013; Northern Ireland with 3.5 in 2012; Wales with 3.6 in 2013 and England with 3.9 in 2014? (Sources on request)
Finally, do you think that by these distortions of reality you may be reducing staff morale, increasing expectant mother’s anxiety and perhaps in only a few cases, causing unnecessary deaths?
As for yesterday’s good news on hospitals – Scottish hospital admission deaths fall 7% over past two years, new NHS figures reveal – there’s no sign of it on BBC Scotland. Might that news reduce hospital phobia?