On 24th January 2019, I wrote to BBC Complaints saying:
|‘With regard to deaths at the QEU Hospital in Glasgow, Lisa Summers said: ‘It became clear that two patients had died as a result of this particular infection.’ This is patently untrue. In one case, the patient absolutely did not die as ‘a result of’ the infection’ but because of ‘an unrelated cause’. In the other case it was as, Lisa put it later ‘contributory’. The infection was found in the blood stream of the second patient but clearly this death was also not ‘as a result of’ the infection.’|
On 11th February after apologies for delay, they replied at some length, essentially waffling and attempting to screen the lies with redundant comment.
The full response is below but the key points remain:
1. The use of the inaccurate and misleading phrase ‘as a result of’ in the case of the child death where the infection was a contributory factor is not excused by it having been said in a live interview.
2. The use of the inaccurate and misleading phrase ‘as a result of’ requires correction and is not sorted with subsequent qualification. You cannot qualify a lie.
3. The use of the inaccurate and misleading phrase ‘as a result of’ in the case of the adult who died from unrelated causes required correction and cannot be sorted by mere clarification.
|Dear Professor Robertson|
Dear Professor Robertson
Thank you for your correspondence regarding Reporting Scotland. Your comments were passed to the Editor, Reporting Scotland, who has asked that I forward their response as follows:
“Thank you for being in touch about the teatime edition on 22nd January.This is what we said in the Jackie Bird introduction to a report from our health correspondent: “Good evening. The Health Secretary has confirmed that a rare infection linked to pigeon droppings was a contributory factor in the death of a child at Scotland’s flagship hospital. There is now to be an investigation into the construction and design of Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth university hospital. But Labour has criticised the way the case has been handled and said there’d been a complete lack of clarity from the health board about the infection. Here’s our Health Correspondent, Lisa Summers.”That was accurate. The background to the report is that the Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman, had revealed in the Scottish Parliament that day that an infection carried in pigeon droppings had been contracted by a ten-year-old boy and had been a contributory factor in his death. She said that an elderly patient had also contracted the infection but had died from an unrelated condition. We only spoke about the death of the child in the headline, intro and piece.In the studio live, Lisa was actually giving details of the way the information had been released by the health board over the previous weekend and the lack of clarity that there had been. In a fuller version than the words you quote she said: “You can understand why patients would be very concerned about what’s happened because of the way that information has become public. At first the health board said that two patients were being treated for a fungal infection. It was Saturday night before it became clear that two patients had died as a result of this particular fungal infection related to pigeon’s droppings”.
The point she was trying to make was about the lack of clarity, but in what was, I reiterate, a live interview, it did not quite come out as intended. But Lisa immediately went on to qualify that by saying: “They (the health board) said then [i.e., on the Saturday] that in one case investigations were ongoing as to whether the infection was connected to the death of the second patient”. She then gave the latest on that day’s developments: “It was only today that we had confirmation that in fact a post mortem in December of a child had confirmed it to be a contributory factor so you can understand the kind of widespread concern about it and that’s why in a way the investigation [into the construction and design of the hospital] is extremely important”.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, of course, only to me. No public retraction was made.