On February 12th 2019, I wrote:
Here’s my complaint on 24th January:
‘In a report on deaths at the QEU Hospital, Jackie Bird said: ‘[T]he deaths of two patients from a rare fungal infection.’
This is inaccurate. We knew from the BBC website the same day: ‘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.’
So in neither case did the patient die ‘from’ a rare fungal infection. One clearly died from ‘an unrelated cause’ and the other’s death was still being investigated.’
In the response, the editor admits that the report was ‘wrong’, apologises and tells us that they have had a word with all involved. I know, it’s a small victory after they have managed to inflate the story and to then run it well beyond any reasonable assessment of its importance. As for speaking to all involved, I doubt Jackie has been humbled in any way.
Here’s the full response:
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 21st January.
This is the intro by Jackie Bird to our health correspondent’s report: “The health secretary will meet NHS officials tomorrow, to discuss the deaths of two patients from a rare fungal infection, believed to be linked to pigeon droppings, found at Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth university hospital. The health board says the hospital is safe for patients and visitors, and has apologised for the disruption caused by measures taken to control the infection. Our health correspondent Lisa Summers reports.”
I have reviewed what was said and the process that led to what was said. The NHS press release which contained information we used started by referring to the investigation into “the cause of two isolated cases of Cryptococcus”; and, several paragraphs later, quoted the medical director as saying: “Our thoughts are with the families of the two patients who have sadly died.”
It appears that the fact that the two people had the infection and that they had died had been conflated by the intro writer into the deaths having both been caused by the infection.
That was not a conclusion that could reasonably be drawn. We were therefore wrong and I apologise for that.
I should add that, at the very top of her report and coming therefore immediately after the introduction, our health correspondent said: “Investigations continue at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital after it emerged late last week that two patients had died after testing positive for an airborne fungal infection linked to pigeon droppings.” That was entirely accurate.
I am grateful to you for raising this issue and can assure you that we constantly review our procedures in order to improve our service to licence fee payers. In this case I have spoken to all involved and have emphasised the points that you made in your complaint.”