Today, we heard:
Allegations emerged that a child died as a result of contamination at a Glasgow hospital.’
Now, it’s one case from 2017 based only on hearsay and there’s a later admission that a bacterial infection was [only] ‘a significant factor’ and thus the death was NOT as a result of the contamination.
Of course we hear nothing of the FACT that hospital acquired infections have fallen dramatically in the last ten years:
I probably don’t need to tell you any of this, but the trail of blood goes all the way back to January 20th:
Pigeon droppings made national news that morning with the headline:
‘Two patients have died after contracting a fungal infection caused by pigeon droppings.’
BBC Scotland then had a longer piece headed:
‘Two patients have dies after falling ill from an infection caused by pigeons.’
Only six sentences later did we hear, quietly inserted, that one patient had died from ‘an unrelated cause’ and that the other’s death was ‘being investigated.’
The headlines were only true in the chronological sense that these patients died some time ‘after’ the infections took place just as the deaths took place ‘after’ many other events in the preceding days.
Two days later:
BBC Scotland ‘News’ continues to worry away at the story of pigeon droppings and two deaths at the Southern General. One of the deaths was due to an unrelated matter and the other is still being investigated, according to the BBC’s own website this morning:
‘The health board said one of the patients was elderly and had died from an unrelated cause. The factors contributing to the death of the other patient are being investigated.’
Despite this, BBC Scotland along with most of the press, have been keen to suggest the fungal infection derived from the pigeon droppings is in some way implicated in the deaths and that the pigeon infestation is now an NHS Scotland crisis.
We’ve heard the deaths described as happening ‘after’ or ‘linked’ to the fungal infection. In most cases the accurate account does find its way into reporting ‘after’ the impression has been made.
Given the saturation headline coverage it would be surprising if the popular impression was not that the pigeon dropping fungal infection had been the actual cause of death. Anyhow, tonight, Jackie Bird, showing little avian solidarity, said:
‘[T]he deaths of two patients from a rare fungal infection.’
This was clearly inaccurate. The deaths were not from the infection. At 10.30, Graham Stewart repeated the lie and that morning (22nd) it was to be repeated six times in the BBC Breakfast inserts.
I complained and they apologised:
In the report, the emphases were on the death of a child and the review announced that day by the Health Secretary into the construction and design of the new flagship hospital itself, with examples of a number of issues which had been causing concern about the building. On reflection we could perhaps have made it clearer in our coverage that the second death had been unrelated to the infection carried by pigeon droppings and I am grateful to you for raising the point you have.
The apology was soon forgotten and in February:
Reporting Scotland returned to their long-running campaign inflating a small number of hospital infections known to have been only contributory factors in death to produce a crisis. They have repeated, over and over, the notion that these deaths have come ‘after’ the infections leaving viewers to make a causal connection which is clearly not there.
Dr Alan Mather, Chief of Medicine told us, being careful to pause and to emphasise the actual cause of the deaths:
‘There was cluster of deaths of babies that were very premature and that’s the key element of this.’ Sadly, three very premature babies have died as a result of the prematurity but were also infected with this organism.’
He’s clearly saying that the extreme prematurity killed the baby and, perhaps to get the reporter out of his hair, acknowledging that it had an infection too which along with a number of other factors may have played a part but the baby died because it was very premature.
Then in June, clearly blood-starved, they tried to stir things up with:
‘A major inquiry into Scotland’s biggest hospital tries to establish why staff are struggling to control infection outbreaks.’
Remember there were outbreaks of a fungal infection in two wards of a 1 677-bed, 1 109 patient room hospital in February 2019. There have been none reported since.
Were staff struggling? That there have been infections in only two of more than 1 000 places since the opening of the hospital in 2016, suggests otherwise. Further it looks like the choice of the word ‘struggling’ is unique to Reporting Scotland. It does not appear in the BBC Scotland website report nor does it appear in any press reports.
This is not good for any of us.
‘So, bombarding people with ‘sensationalized’ negativity does have genuine and real psychological effects. Given this ‘cascading’ effect of negativity into people’s personal lives, should TV schedulers be required to consider such effects when preparing and scheduling programs containing emotively negative content?’
This opening quote from Psychology Today in 2012, in some ways, makes the rest of my article redundant such is its impact but I want to go on to make more clear my critique of BBC Reporting Scotland’s current ‘weaponising’ of NHS Scotland. First though it’s worth dwelling on the word ‘valenced’ above. What this tells us is that the way the report is phrased is very important. Where words like ‘crisis’ and ‘risk’ are used as they often are by BBC Scotland to dramatise the reports, this can exacerbate the negative effects beyond what a more restrained report on the same issue might do. BBC Scotland might claim it is their duty to report on problems in NHS Scotland but what is key here is how they do so.
Also, from Psychology Today in 2012:
‘Negative news on TV is increasing, but what are its psychological effects?’
‘We found that those people who had watched the negative news bulletin spent more time thinking and talking about their worry and were more likely to catastrophise their worry than people in the other two groups.’
Further this report from Psychiatry, based on research in Israel, is particularly concerning:
‘The results suggest that a vast majority (87.2%) of the population tuned in to the newscasts and the majority (76.7%) of viewers increased their news consumption compared to normal. Increased frequency of viewing newscasts was associated with reported anxiety reflected in uncontrolled fear, physiological hyperarousal, sleeping difficulties, and fearful thoughts. A regression model revealed that viewers watching the constant newscasts more than usual are 1.6 times more likely to report at least one anxiety symptom compared to those watching at the same frequency or less, standardized to gender and age…… Increased viewing patterns of televised traumatic content, as well as negative perception of such broadcasts, are associated with the report of anxiety symptoms or psychopathology.’
The particular worries triggered by health reports as opposed to the more obviously traumatic images from war zones has also been demonstrated in Media Psychology in 2014:
‘Results showed that the report with mutilations caused by bacterial infection elicited more fear than the report with mutilations caused by land mine explosions. This effect was mediated by the dimensions of suddenness, unpleasantness, personal relevance, and coping potential.’
To conclude, BBC Reporting Scotland, please think about the ethical basis for your current campaign against NHS Scotland. Surely, you do not want to be associated with this collateral damage.