Not for the first time, stewartb and legerwood, have dug a bit deeper than I have. Yesterday I fired both barrels at Reporting Scotland and the Royal Colleges. I remain suspicious of the wider political agenda of the latter but it’s clear, from that digging that they were misrepresented by BBC Scotland.
First, the actual statement:
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Scottish public has continued to play a key role in fighting this virus by following the rules and minimising contact with others, especially indoors.
We know there is hope on the horizon with the roll-out of a national immunisation programme, with further vaccines likely to be approved shortly. However, it will take months for this to make a significant difference, and the short-term situation facing our NHS and public health services remains bleak.
The NHS and social care across Scotland are now on an emergency footing, with services already severely stretched. Scotland has been able to reduce infection rates, but the new strain is highly infectious and will undoubtedly increase the rate of COVID-19 infection and hospital admissions in the days and weeks ahead. We are gravely concerned that this could lead to the NHS being overwhelmed.
NHS staff are exhausted but are continuing to work hard to keep the public safe. However, in the face of the new strain, we are calling on the public, once again, to recognise the severity of the situation and take the necessary steps to support our health and social care services.
Our plea to the public is simple, please do not let your guard down now. You must continue to play your part to protect the NHS and save lives. Our general practices are exceptionally busy and our hospitals are already near capacity. We risk facing a ‘perfect storm’ of challenges if we don’t take collective action now to prevent further spread of COVID-19.
We are calling for social distancing to be 2 metres at all times and for masks to be worn in any situation where you are meeting people who are not in your household or bubble – indoors or outdoors. All other potential measures to decrease community transmission should be considered by the government.
This is urgently required so our NHS can focus on three key tasks – rolling out the vaccine programme, continuing with the rapid testing programmes, and providing emergency care for COVID as well as other medical problems.
Please use the available resources on NHS inform for health information, speak to your community pharmacist for advice on simple health conditions, cancel any appointments you are unable to attend, and call 111 first if you think you may need to be seen in A&E.
Only by continuing to look out for each other and following the rules can we give our NHS doctors, nurses and support staff the best chance to do their jobs in the difficult weeks ahead. https://www.rcsed.ac.uk/news-public-affairs/press-and-media/press-
Also on Covid, the BBC News website’s Scotland page today has this headline: “Covid in Scotland: Health leaders warn NHS could be ‘overwhelmed’ “
It is reporting a statement just issued by the Scottish Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and Faculties. The BBC article begins: “Clinicians are warning health services could be overwhelmed by any surge in coronavirus cases after restrictions were temporarily eased at Christmas.” Alert readers will note the ‘could’ word!
So the framing of the BBC Scotland article is self-evident. The editorial decision is to focus on a threat of our NHS being overwhelmed, a forecast challenged by Jason Leitch, the national clinical director. You have to read a long way down the BBC article to find this in reference to the Scottish Academy’s statement: “They called on the public to recognise the severity of the situation and take the necessary steps to support health and social care services.”
The actual text of the statement is framed in a different way. Yes, the BBC Scotland journalist has copied and pasted phrases accurately and, of necessity, selectively. But the selection and its effect on the framing is what is notable. The Scottish Academy’s statement by any reasonable reading is actually framed as a plea to the public to comply with Covid-19 related guidance and rules.
The BBC, in order to provide a true, useful public service, could have selected from among the following sections of the statement:
“.. in the face of the new strain, we are calling on the public, once again, to recognise the severity of the situation and take the necessary steps to support our health and social care services.
“Our plea to the public is simple, please …
“Only by continuing to look out for each other and following the rules can we give our NHS doctors, nurses and support staff the best chance to do their jobs in the difficult weeks ahead.”
The nature and purpose of the Scottish Academy’s statement seems very clear. It was issued – in the context of a continuing public health emergency – to encourage public compliance.
Why has the public service broadcaster chosen to de-emphasis the Scottish Academy’s clear public health purpose and instead opt for this ‘overwhelming’ emphasis? I wonder!
More from stewartb:
Scottish Academy: in its joint Christmas message with BMA Scotland (written while the plan was still for a five day relaxation of Covid restrictions over Christmas), the Scottish Academy stated this“It has clearly not been easy for politicians to strike a balance between lessening social isolation, with its effects on mental health, over Christmas and the inevitable rise in Covid-19 cases in that will occur in January as a result of more social mixing.“Many people will welcome the new temporary guidelines, but others will be apprehensive about the risks of meeting up over Christmas. Whatever risks this decision poses, we do not seek to change it. But we as doctors have a responsibility to help minimise any impact.“… But we also know that after the hardest of years, maintaining adherence to existing restrictions will be very difficult for some and therefore unrealistic to expect.”“It is therefore down to every one of us to think very carefully about our plans for those five days. All we ask, as we have done throughout the pandemic, is that when you make your choices about Christmas, you think of the risk of spreading Covid-19 to your family and to those in vulnerable groups in particular. … “So once again, the Scottish Academy, in acknowledging the difficult balancing required by political leaders and the potential adverse impact of any easing of restrictions, it frames it message as a plea to the public.Although concerned about the proposed five-day relaxation over Christmas – which of course was subsequently reduced – it did not seek to change the policy and it recognised the challenges of sustaining public compliance with more severe restrictions.Didn’t get that context from the latest BBC Scotland output!
BBC 1 Evening news has just been making much of the threat of NHS Scotland being overwhelmed due to relaxation of restrictions and new strain of Covid. But of course ZERO reference to Scotland-only Covid stats for context – no comparative account. And then the BBC gives an opportunity for a UK minister (Ms Coffey) to offer the public reassurance over how the NHS – by implication in England – will cope and not be overwhelmed. But ZERO opportunity for the audience to hear a response from an NHS Scotland or SG spokesperson – despite already having a response from Jason Leitch on record. The BBC’s practices get more and more unacceptable – if that’s even possible!
I found this ‘warning’ from the Academy and tthe prominence and spin given to it by the BBC quite odd for several reasons.The numbers in hospital with Covid-19 has been fairly constant over the last few weeks – hovering just over1000. Ditto the numbers in ICU units which have been in the 50-60 range On the BBC Reporting Scotland tonight they quoted a total ICU capacity of just over 300 and occupancy of 288 of which around 50 or so were Covid-19 related. So still some spare capacity although we know things can turn on a sixpence where this virus is concerned so the clinicians are right to remind us to keep being careful.Another reason for scepticism of the BBC’s promotion, if that is the right word, of the strain on NHS Scotland is that until now hospitals in Scotland have not featured in any reports on ‘NHS at breaking point’. For example, round about the 18th Dec both BBC News and Ch4 news did major items on the strain being experienced by hospitals in Wales, NI and in England in particular London. Any mention of hospitals in Scotland was conspicuous by its absence. In NI 7 of its 11 hospitals were closed to routine admissions and services. Several trusts in Wales were in a similar position. I thing the number of Covid patients in hospital is around double the number in Scotland.
I hope the truncated Christmas due to the new restrictions will cut any surge and not overwhelm the system. At the moment in Scotland it seems that by and large hospitals are coping.