How BBC Scotland will disclose a painful and anxious reality for you


‘Behind each statistic on NHS lists is a person living with the pain and the anxiety of waiting’.

Now remember that. Don’t forget them. Don’t go off today, living your life, ignorant of these facts. We’ve chosen these images of suffering because we think it’s important that you know about them and that you let them form a major element in what you agree is socially real. It’s in the public interest as we define it. So, remember, ‘pain’, ‘anxiety’, waiting.’ Our ‘Disclosure Team’ has risked life and limb to expose this suffering and you can hear all about it tonight on Disclosure: Life on the NHS List!

Of course, behind some statistics on NHS performance is a person living now without pain and anxiety or even a person living who might otherwise not be. Remember, when targets are missed, this can still mean that up to 90% of those people were treated within the target time and crucially are now living free of pain.

Which of the above is more important information for you in forming a reasonably accurate sense of social reality so that you can then think, feel and behave in a way that is also reasonably well-matched to the world in which you must operate?

As newspaper readership plummets, TV news becomes by far the dominant source of news for most of the middle-aged and elderly in Scotland. Some of these and most of the younger people benefit from the more diverse, controllable and often healthily contrarian, information flows, through social media and, at the same time, from access to mainstream media of a more global nature online.

Now, I’m not going to talk of the media ‘constructing’ reality because the word can suggest ‘making up’ reality. The social scientists first using the term ‘construction’ did not, of course mean it in that way, but to avoid accusations of paranoia from the usual suspects at BBC Scotland, I’ll use the term ‘agreeing’ based on this:

‘The media can act as a socializing agent by constructing reality and then disseminating this reality to the mass public. The “social” element comes into play when upon receiving the media’s “reality” message, the vast majority agree upon this reality and accept it. Following this pattern, social construction may be more appropriately referred to as social agreement of reality. The term construction seems to imply that the media is “making-up” or “creating” reality. While some would agree with the previous statement, I believe to spout such an assertion is ludicrous because the media often must report issues that are simply a matter of operating by typical journalist guidelines/standards. Someone must make decisions concerning what information passes on to the public. Should this be a government responsibility or the responsibility of individuals who have a real desire to be in the industry and have studied the industry? While it is easy to sit back and criticize the media, they are providing a necessary function to society and individuals need this function (i.e., information providing).’

I’m going to argue here that a group of individuals at BBC Scotland are making decisions leading to distortion of reality with damaging consequences for wider public health and for democratic engagement, despite having the guidance of a royal charter to make them ‘responsible’ and to ‘inform’ having, presumably, studied the industry at an academic level.

I can’t of course complete this until I’ve seen it, but I can lay out a methodology that will reliably assess its quality as ‘responsible’ journalism to inform the process of reality agreement among its viewers.

Did Disclosure: Life on the NHS List:

  1. help me understand what it feels like to wait longer than I should have to for treatment?
  2. include examples of people who had been treated within the target times?
  3. inform me how common it is to wait longer than the target times?
  4. inform of reasons me why target times are not being met such as increased demand?
  5. explain any problems with interpreting waiting time statistics?
  6. give a balanced account based on all of the above?

I’ll be delighted to be proved wrong.







15 thoughts on “How BBC Scotland will disclose a painful and anxious reality for you

  1. gavin December 3, 2018 / 9:44 am

    Gordon Brown was Prime Minister over a large portion of the Mid Staffs hospital scandal, when a large number of people died through poor care.
    Neither he nor his Health Minister were ever in the firing line over this, in the media or by political opponents.
    Imagine the fuss if this scandal (and there have been others down south ) had been in Scotland?

    The disgusting hounding of Shona Robison was but a small taste of the hypocrisy of the “British” media and politics.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Jon December 3, 2018 / 11:36 am

    Another one for your list,

    7. How does the situation in Scotland compare with the rest of the UK.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Alasdair Macdonald December 3, 2018 / 12:22 pm

    This programme has to be viewed in the context of a series of ‘damning’ reports which BBC Scotland News and Current Affairs has published about NHS Scotland or some of the Health Boards, particularly Tayside.

    It is important that public services are held to account and the publication of targets is part of the accountability process, but it is only a PART and, as we have seen, not just in health, the reporting of targets has led to a distortion of the wider picture.

    On Good Morning Scotland this morning Professor Harry Burns was interviewed and he tried to give a descrition of the situation, setting it within a historic context, within changes of clinical practices, within a changing demographic. While she did not interrupt, as is a common practice of hers, it was clear that Ms Gillian Marles, was really wanting him to say who was to BLAME.

    Tonight’s programme has been trailed, firstly by an interview with Mr Gordon Brown, which was apparently undertaken in September of this year, but published only now. Mr Brown is a retired politician, who has never sat in the Scottish Parliament nor served in the Scottish Government, which is responsible for Health. He is simply a private citizen of Scotland like you or I. If there had to be a political input, and, there should be, then why was it not by the Conservative spokesperson on Health, since the Conservatives are the opposition. Why was a current Labour MSP not offered the chance to make a statement?

    FInally, another of the trailer headlines was the presentation of a large number of people, who over 6 years had not been dealt with within the target period. There was no context to this figure – how many people ere on waiting lists during this period? What proportion were treated within the period? What proportion were treated within, say, twice and three times the target period? What is the change in the demographic over this period? We heard one vox pop from a woman who had waited, in some pain and discomfort, for an extended period. Of course we sympathise with her: many of us know family, neighbours and friends who have suffered persistent pain and we wish them to find comfort. However, we were not told of the circumstances of this particular case. By their nature, vox pops are particular and care should be taken about generalising from them. They are also used malignly by the media and others as a variation on the ‘perfectionist fallacy’ – no matter how well some policy has been, if there is a single failure, the whole process is deemed to have failed.

    The Minister, Ms Jeanne Freeman, was heard in an extract, prefaced by a statement which set her statement in a ‘defensive’ context.

    I look forward to your analysis after having viewed the programme.

    Liked by 2 people

    • johnrobertson834 December 3, 2018 / 4:30 pm

      Thanks. I suspect you’ve covered many of the issues that will arise.


  4. Alan Gordon December 3, 2018 / 12:28 pm

    The 170,000 figure, on the waiting list, mentioned this morning on GMS, was that for the whole of the UK or just Scotland? Anybody know?


  5. Finnmacollie December 3, 2018 / 1:16 pm

    “Of course, behind some statistics on NHS performance is a person living now without pain and anxiety or even a person living who might otherwise not be. Remember, when targets are missed, this can still mean that up to 90% of those people were treated within the target time and crucially are now living free of pain.”

    Be interesting to see if this balance – which the BBC is famous for – is included in it’s propaganda (sorry, programme, I meant programme!)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Stuart Mcnicoll December 3, 2018 / 1:23 pm

    Is that 170,000 patients passed the standard 12 week period. If you cancel your appointment or don’t turn up you can go to the back of Que, i.e. another 12 weeks, will that be highlighted.


  7. Steve December 4, 2018 / 12:29 am

    BBC Light Entertainment Dept

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Robert Innes December 4, 2018 / 3:50 pm

    A female relative hurt her foot about six weeks ago and was urged to go to A&E. Not wanting to wait for up to 6 hours, as she had been led to believe would be the case by the MSM, she elected to leave it and allow nature to take its course. 5 weeks later the pain became so bad she was forced to go to the local hospital (the New Southern A&E). Diagnosis; broken bone in foot. Back out in just over an hour, x-rayed, foot braced and a promise that an appointment would be sent out to her for the fracture clinic, in due course, for further treatment. Said appointment arrived by post two days later.

    “Now do you believe me when I tell you the SNHS is truly excellent?”, I asked. “I’ve just been exceptionally lucky”, was her reply.

    God give me strength!


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