We’ve all been aware of the incessant bombardment of negative, often downright dishonest, reporting on NHS Scotland and the regular politicising of the reports to associate them with the Health Secretary, since at least February of this year. That’s when the infested hospital saga began with tales of pigeon droppings and deaths ‘after’ though never ‘because of’ infections. As I write, we’re in the midst of a period of at least 12 days of headlining child deaths in hospitals, linked to infections, and calls from BBC Scotland’s feeder politicians for ‘heads to roll.’ In between, we saw attacks, later repulsed, but only after damage was done, on NHS Tayside’s mental health and oncology departments, on a delayed hospital and a series of unreliable partisan ‘research’ reports suggesting staffing crises. That BBC England, Wales and Northern Ireland, notably, did not politicise health reports, often worse than in Scotland, did not use images of their health secretaries and rarely repeated them beyond a single day, was a clear, objective and quantifiable, measure of the bias by BBC Scotland.
Yet, SNP support seems unaffected, holding firm above 40% across numerous full and sub-polls. Perhaps, as with the SNP ‘civil wars’, BBC reporting is having little effect? Alternatively, might support be even stronger in the absence of such attacks? One piece of evidence comes from a sequence of sub-polls of respondents in Scotland by Opinium, mostly for the Observer, which have asked: ‘Which party do you trust most on the following issues? Health / NHS’. Not all Opinium surveys asked the question and I can see no question of comparable use in the other polls.
Here are the data from the last 9 which ask the question above:
Date Sample Con Lab Lib SNP
20/11/19 109 12 26 7 16
13/11/19 92 15 19 8 22
30/10/19 169 16 12 4 18
8/8/19 96 14 16 6 28
13/12/18 170 16 19 5 24
14/11/18 169 26 16 2 28
3/10/18 169 21 23 3 21
26/9/18 169 17 21 3 27
10/4/18 105 19 20 1 25
Now, with the recent intensified clusters of attacks on the Health Secretary beginning before the 30/10/19 poll we can see a marked fall then in the percentage trusting the SNP. Using averages of groups of 3 polls we can that it has fallen from 18.6% from 26.6% in the previous 3. The previous 3 polls averaging 24.3% up to the 3rd of October 2018, were taken around the campaign to unseat the previous health secretary, Shona Robison, when she had been forced to take NHS Tayside into ‘special measures.’ This ‘scandal’ was of course, a media construct just as the one on hospital infections is though it has forced Jeanne Freeman into similar responses with a public inquiry and now special measures for the QMU Hospital. The next Opinium poll due soon will be interesting and may strengthen the argument that BBC Scotland coverage of the NHS is having an effect.
Readers familiar with the wider performance of NHS Scotland, superior to that in NHS England and well ahead of ‘third-world’ NHS Wales, will be horrified to see that some Scots appear to think that Scottish Labour would be any better at the job than Labour Wales.