Head of Complaints, BBC Scotland
The report on breast cancer deaths in NHS Tayside, two weeks ago, contained no inaccuracies but through the sequencing of the information presented, created a causal connection not made by the Review Group report which they had supposedly based their presentation on. They said in an uninterrupted sequence:
- There’s further criticism tonight of a decision to give breast cancer patients in Tayside lower doses of drugs during chemotherapy than they would have received elsewhere in Scotland.
- A panel of experts has described the practice as close to being unacceptable.
- Fourteen of the patients involved have since died.
The very strong implication here is that these fourteen patients died because of the lower doses. The Review Group report absolutely does not say that or imply it in any way. Indeed, it says quite explicitly that of the 300 plus patients involved:
The only part of their reply responding directly to my complaint said, astonishingly:
‘I cannot agree with your argument that there was a “very strong implication that these fourteen patients died because of the lower doses” and I believe that few if any in our audience would have inferred that.’
I do not believe for a minute that they fully intended to make the connection which they now deny. This was deliberate. Also, they do not explain why the official assessment that only around 1 patient per year might have been affected, was not part of their report. See:
‘The overall assessment of the increased risk of recurrence within the treated cohort is extremely difficult to quantify but probably of the order of 1-2%. A risk of harm of 1-2%, allows an estimate that around 1 patient per year in NHS Tayside may have suffered an adverse outcome.’