It all started yesterday (Sunday) at 5pm when ITV’s regional news outfit Calendar ran a story saying:
The body running the NHS in England says it hopes that Leeds General infirmary will “shortly be in a position to restart children’s heart surgery secure in the knowledge that everything is okay.”
The report went on to quote a statement from an NHS England spokesperson as saying (bits in bold from me):
“Most of the big failures in NHS care have featured arguments about data. It is just days after the government’s response to the Mid Staffs inquiry where people hesitated for exactly this reason and people suffered…It must be right to put the safety of children first. It was therefore a highly responsible step to suspend the service. We hope that Leeds will shortly be in a position to restart children’s heart surgery secure in the knowledge that everything is okay.”
The Calendar report wasn’t wrong. It’s just that the statement was old.
Hope? Make that ‘likely’ … Likely? Make that “WILL”
“Great news from NHS England that surgery is likely to re-start at LGI shortly,” said one tweet.
The statement didn’t say that, of course.
Chinese whisper number one.
Now, guys, what do you do with Chinese whispers? You compound the initial mistake, add another one and pass it on!
So we get Chinese whispers numbers two and three from Mr Mulholland:
“Great news … that #childrensheartsurgery in #leeds will soon be restarted“
… followed by …
“Confirmation from #NHS England that #Leeds children’s heart unit was safe ALL ALONG ‘secure in the knowledge that everything is OK'”
See what he did there, kids? No? Go back up to the original statement and look again.
Lone Twitter voice
The key quote was no different from what NHS England medical director Sir Bruce Keogh had said on Thursday, Sky news correspondent Gerard Tubb reminded the MP.
Here’s what Keogh had said:
“I hope that Leeds will shortly be in a position to restart children’s heart surgery secure in the knowledge that everything is okay”
Recognise the similarities? Swap “I” for “We” and they’re identical.
As far as I’m aware, the Lib-Dem politician hasn’t acknowledged that he got it wrong.
Hey! It’s only Twitter!
So, come today (Monday), and the Daily Telegraph are looking to freshen up their story.
Whisper, whisper …
Here comes whisper number four.
Under the headline “Hope that Leeds heart unit will re-open soon”, Science correspondent Nick Collins manages to tie an old NHS statement (masquerading as a new statement) to tomorrow’s talks at the hospital.
“The body that oversees the NHS England has said it hopes to restart heart surgery at Leeds General Infirmary soon, ahead of talks with doctors on Tuesday.”
Now, I’m sorry, but doesn’t that make it sound as though NHS England had made the statement ahead of (i.e. because of) the talks?
Which The Telegraph would’ve known wasn’t true. If they’d checked.
Out! Out! Out!
And if the bank holiday Sunday shift at Calendar had bothered to read the Yorkshire Post, they’d have found their “new” statement in its entirety, published 40 hours previously.
Ditto the bank holiday shift at the Telegraph, who’d have found that their key quotes were well over two days old.
Still, not to worry. The story has now moved on. Today (Monday) there’s a different “news” peg for Twitter to bray itself hoarse about.
Out! Out! Out!
What with whispers and distortions, depressingly partisan press coverage and know-all politicians permanently on their high horses, the whole sorry saga is starting to become pretty unedifying.
“It is really important that this review is carried out in a sensible, effective and decisive way,” said the NHS. “For that to happen it needs to follow a proper and complete process. It cannot be conducted in the media.”