On the BBC News website, at the top level ‘Health’ tab, dated 9 April you find this headline:
‘Coronavirus: A&E visits drop sharply as calls to 111 double’
I read the article carefully looking for a certain ‘something’ but didn’t find it anywhere in the text describing NHS England’s A&E. Bear with me!
On 7 April the BBC News website, on its ‘Scotland’ page, had covered a similar story on A&E visits under this headline:
‘A&E numbers ‘lowest on record’ since Coronavirus lockdown’
Again I read the article carefully, searching for that special ‘something’ in the description of NHS Scotland’s A&E – and of course, unsurprisingly – I found it!
“DESPITE the drop, the figures show that the Scottish government’s target of 95% of emergency cases to be completed within four hours of arrival was missed.” (my emphasis)
For context, BBC Scotland decided that even with 92.2% of those attending A&E in Scotland being seen within the target time it was important to add – it could not resist – the ‘Despite ..’ comment.
However, this kind of framing is nowhere to be found in the otherwise directly comparable BBC News article on England’s A&E. The contrast with the BBC’s editorial choices here could hardly be more stark! But in reality the ‘problem’ this comparison reveals goes much deeper, is much more stark!
The latest activity and performance data for Type 1 A&E centres in England (i.e. those equivalent to Scotland’s ‘main’ A&E sites, those achieving the 92.5% performance) were published on 9 April, no doubt triggering the BBC News item on the same day.
These latest figures reveal that across NHS England the four hour waiting time target for A&E was met for just 76.2% of patients. So to recap: 76.2% as compared with 92.2% – despite the drop in A&E attendances.
This is not deemed newsworthy by BBC England-as-the-UK – and there is no mention of a ‘Westminster Tory government’s target being missed’. And of course, as is now the norm, none of this is deemed relevant as context by BBC Scotland even when opting to make its grudging “Despite ….” comment.
And as a final observation, no government or minister is mentioned in the BBC’s article on A&E in England – no whiff of politicising this heath matter. Jeane Freeman and the Scottish Government figure several times in the BBC Scotland article.