BBC Breakfast Coverage of NHS Reforms
On the morning of 2 April 2013, the day after the new rules for NHS commissioning were introduced, the BBC gave them three and a half minutes, the longest report I have seen so far. Here is an email that I sent to Newswatch about the woeful coverage of the NHS reforms.
This morning on BBC Breakfast, I watched Graham Satchell's report on the new rules for NHS commissioning, helpfully archived here:
I have two major concerns about this.
First, a "vox pop" section was presented with Mr. Satchell asking people on the street what "CCG" means, and then what they knew about Clinical Commissioning Groups. Many of them were uninformed. Given the minuscule amount of coverage given by the BBC to the proposals in the Health and Social Care Act 2012, I am not surprised. This was one of the largest upheavals in provision of primary care in the 65-year history of the NHS, which has caused wide alarm within the healthcare profession, and yet the BBC coverage has been woeful.
As a publicly-funded news broadcaster, the BBC is in a unique position to provide in-depth analysis of complex issues, rather than just chasing the "breaking news" headlines. These changes have been on the cards for over a year, and I feel that the BBC has failed to cover this change in anything like the amount of depth and breadth required. It is therefore in some measure responsible for the very ignorance on which it was reporting this morning.
Secondly, the reporter was shown interviewing members of the Blackpool CCG group on their reactions to the legislation, despite acknowledging that 6 out of 8 of the members had conflicts of interest. One mention of this was brushed aside by Dr Amanda Doyle using simple assertion, without evidence and without any follow-up from the interviewer. While I'm not expecting a Paxman-esque grilling on BBC Breakfast, no attempt was made to balance this by interviewing anyone from the rest of the medical profession.
The public must be kept fully informed of the effect of this legislation. For a start, please balance discussions of the "failings" of NHS hospitals by comparing rates of complications, poor care, etc. with private hospitals offering the same service. Where private hospitals don't offer the same service, please say so, and investigate why. Also, please ensure adequate coverage of stories like this one:
This very clearly highlights the conflict of interest of CCG members also being on the boards of the companies they will be employing, and which Dr. Doyle this morning brushed off as irrelevant.
"Does it matter who provides the service?" asks Mr. Satchell. Yes, it does. It would be interesting and informative to investigate and report on what information is available from NHS providers and private providers. How much information can be concealed from a FOI request due to commercial sensitivity?
This is an extremely important piece of news, which has been shamefully neglected so far. Please give it the time and energy that it deserves.
Sean Ellis [Address and phone number redacted]
If I receive a reply, I will post it here.