Here is the news: NHS Scotland performs better, but you may not know it

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Commentary by Prof John Robertson

‘In Scotland, there is a different story…’ (BBC 1 Network News at 1.15pm on 10th December 2015)

On BBC 1 News at 1pm and again at 6pm, we saw extensive reporting of several crises in the English NHS. Headlines covered, in particular, failures in discharging the elderly to free up beds for incoming patients and a staggering account of a failure of one Mental Health Trust to investigate more than 1 000 deaths.

Professor John Robertson
Professor John Robertson

The figures had been released that morning and, as you would expect, made it on to the 1pm News on BBC 1. Interestingly, the report noted more than once that only NHS Scotland had improved and had the best results in the UK. Naively, I thought we’d get more detail on Reporting Scotland.

BBC Scotland seemed to have slept in, though, as they failed to report on the Scottish figures or, for that matter, NHS Scotland’s improved performance at 1.15pm. It’ll be on at 6.30 then? Nope.

Instead, Reporting Scotland at 1.15 and again at 6.30, headlined on repairs to the Forth Road Bridge. It was a technical piece about how the crack would get a splint followed by the debate in Holyrood, where BBC gave generous time to all three opposition leaders to try to lay the blame on the SNP. Now, Reporting Scotland had already headlined the bridge story, two or three times a day, on 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th December and had covered it later in the report on the 9th.

It’s hard to see why it remains the number one story after this time,  and particularly when NHS Scotland has, in the past, completely dominated Reporting Scotland’s reports, for weeks on end.

This was particularly the case in the period before the General Election 2015. For examples, see my earlier study, ‘BROADCAST NEWS: BBC hit squad attacks NHS in ongoing crisis shocker!’ . Could their preference for the bridge story be because it was all they had at the time to undermine the SNP government – a bridging story? Sorry, couldn’t resist that. At least it wasn’t tunnel-vision. Either way it made me cross. (Sorry!)

So, to cheer us all up here’s the good news story from the BBC website and from BBC 1 News. Boy have they forgotten they’re supposed to be helping the poor wee Labour Party in Scotland. BBC Scotland will need to send someone down to Salford to break a few bones and introduce them to A&E England’s performance.

First, the table for A&E, with SCOTLAND at the top, up from second place last year! The only improving team in the UK – is SCOTLAND!

_87128475_ukcomparison

Come on Reporting Scotland, tell us all about it! You know how much we love hearing about the Scottish NHS, every night.

Here is a lovely comment from the BBC website:

‘Out of all the four nations, Scotland enters winter in arguably the best position. It is the only health service that is actually doing better than last year.’

And here are some reasons for Scotland doing better, too, on the discharge of older patients to free up beds and thus to make it easier to treat A&E patients, courtesy of BBC England again:

‘Councils and the NHS [in Scotland] have been encouraged to pool budgets and a number of places have opened up intermediate care beds.

This appears to have led to a reduction in the delayed discharges that have proved so problematic in England.

And this position seems to be holding up. Scotland provides up-to-date information on the performance of the 30 busiest hospitals on a weekly basis. The latest data shows performance is currently just below the 95% mark.’

You can read more of this good news at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-35053845

Now, before I finish, see these headlines to be reminded of the challenges NHS Scotland has had to overcome to top the UK league table:

Scotland – The Sick Man of Europe? – British Council

Unhealthy living ‘almost universal’ in Scotland – BBC News

Health report backs Scotland’s ‘sick man of Europe’ tag …

Sick Man of Europe Scotland has Highest Mortality Rate in 15-44 Age Group

Scotland is officially the sick man of Britain – Telegraph

So, NHS Scotland has even more to be proud of and, therefore, the SNP government has too, because they’d have gotten the blame if the figures had been worse .They topped the league against the odds. I’ve had recent experience myself of NHS Scotland, in Ayr – mini-stroke, big prostate, sleep apnoea and a sair knee, to name a few. Everyone I met was kindness itself, if a little intrusive with the prostate thingy. Intuitively, I knew they were good already. Now I know it’s a statistical fact. Well done all you doctors, nurses and all the other staff – champions! Well done Scottish Government for helping to make it possible.

John Robertson, Ayr, December 10th 2015.

60 COMMENTS

  1. Well done NHS Scotland, Scottish Government….and Prof. John, for publicising the good news. Aye one man is managing to do what The BBC in Scotland with all it’s resources ain’t….. Useless bunch of propagandists.

  2. John, as someone who has supported independence for Scotland for the best part of 30 years, I do appreciate your analysis of the Scottish `meeja` and their bias against Scottish independence. As a consummate professional academic you will, however, appreciate Chomsky’s observation about how debate is framed in societies such as ours. The `meeja` is part of the establishment and it plays a key role in constraining and controlling debate by apparently permitting free speech, but all the while makes sure that public debate and discussion is confined to a narrow range of issues and information. Scottish independence is not the only issue or set of issues that the establisment media exerts a tight control over. Another is the mental health system. You do not have a sufficient grasp of the issues to claim that the Scottish mental health system is better than `south of the border`. The experience of my members and other families is that it is a good deal worse. One of the main reasons that Scottish politicians feel able to preen themselves about their supposedly `world leading` mental health system is that there is a dearth of data, statistics and other information to show how bad things really are. If you would like to know more, I would refer you to the 2 articles I wrote for Newsnet Scotland and, in particular, what I have to say in them about the absence of basic measures of compliance with human rights within the Scottish mental health system. It is a testament to the true standards of free speech practised by the Newsnet Scotland editor that he published these articles, in spite of their criticism of the current Scottish Government. What we need in Scotland is not opposition for opposition’s sake, but fair criticism that is pursued tenaciously, whether that is popular or not.

    Please note that it is not merely the case that deaths are not investigated within the Scottish mental health system, the numbers of people who die are not even published. It was my FOI and campaigning that forced the Mental Welfare Commission to publish deaths statistics for the first time ever:-
    http://www.mwcscot.org.uk/media/175822/death_in_detention_final.pdf
    Read all about this, and more, in my articles for Newsnet Scotland:-

    `Autism and the madness of the Mental Health Act`
    http://newsnet.scot/?p=115115
    and
    `We should face up to the madness of the Scottish mental health system`
    http://newsnet.scot/?p=115141

    • Thanks Fiona
      I didn’t mean to claim any more than within their own political game NHS Scotland’s relative stats should be reported. Thanks so much for taking the time to give me so much information on this. You’re correct in saying that I don’t have the evidence for the claim implied in the title but does your experience provide enough to say ‘its much worse’?

      • John – thank you for your reply. My experience is not the point – but my research and the research of other activists has thrown up a number of points . The major point is that there is a an absence of data to make any claim that the Scottish mental health system is better than the English one, and that absence proves that there is a complete absence of interest within the body politic in Scotland about compliance with human rights in the Scottish mental health system. But there is a compelling need for politicians to preen themselves about the supposedly ` world leading` system in Scotland. The figures from Southern Health include suicides – there is no separate data for these within the Scottish mental health system, whether people are inpatients or are on community CTOs .The death rate, excluding suicides, such as I have been able to find out from my FOI to the Mental Welfare Commission, is more than twice the rate for the English system. I know that that’s a sign, amongst other evidence, that the Scottish system is indeed much worse. We certainly know that it is for people with Autistic Spectrum Disorders. As I said:-

        `Please note that it is not merely the case that deaths are not investigated within the Scottish mental health system, the numbers of people who die are not even published. It was my FOI and campaigning that forced the Mental Welfare Commission to publish deaths statistics for the first time ever.`

        • OK. Is it acceptable to say the the performance of NHSS is now better across other areas such as A&E than the rest of the UK but not in mental health? Also is mental health provision in Scotland much worse than in England?

          • Not if Labour MPs are to be believed Professor.

            Last week there was a ‘Mental Health’ in England debate in the HoC, and Labour MP after Labour MP showed that in some parts of England it’s much worse than Scotland.
            We have to remember that England has 9 very different Regions, and in each region there are all kinds of sub-divisions, so standards can vary hugely within a region too.

            It was very good and informative debate, until ….. a Labour MP stood up and gave us a few minutes of ‘SNP baaaad’ – only to look incredibly stupid when one of the many SNP MPs in attendance responded with the real facts !

            We should also be wary of that ‘tyranny of averages’ – one poor-performing Health Board or even hospital can bring down those average performance stats (regionally and nationally), but it doesn’t mean the entire system is failing – which is what our media invariably claims.

    • Fiona – powerful stuff. I do agree that there is an urgent need for proper data to be collected so that steps can be taken to eradicate bad practice of the kind you describe. Best wishes, John

  3. The NHS troubles in England this week are an example of where NHS Scotland gets tarred with the same brush because of a similar name. All week we see headlines screaming about NHS scandals. Today the BBC UK section headline reads: “NHS chief apologises after deaths”

    It’s well known that a large percentage of readers just scan the headlines, and they will pick up the general impression that the NHS is failing as a whole, so long as UK headlines simply mention “The NHS” – not ‘NHS England and Wales’

    It’s long overdue that we had an Scottish Health Service, or similar name.
    It would clarify the fact we have a completely devolved service with major differences, funded and paid for by the Scottish Government.
    This was a problem during the referendum, when a large number of people were under the misconception that NHS Scotland was a division of the UK NHS – funded by the UK government.

    • Excellent point and excellent idea. How should we go about persuading the Scottish Government to re-name our NHS? Harder question, how do we persuade Westminster to rename theirs? Until both of these happen this problem will continue. Even if we officially rename our Health Service SNH or some such, the sloppy (and that’s being kind) main media will still go on referring to “the’ NHS, and people will still assume that ours is part of the English one.
      We need a three-pronged approach: change the name in Scotland; persuade Westminster to change the Enhlish one to reflect its true status; run a media campaign reminding Scots that ours is a fully-devolved system, for good or ill.

  4. Do WM not realise yet that if we had a Scottish 6 instead of the London 6pm News the Scottish population wouldn’t be exposed to all the NHS horrors south of the border leaving BBC Scotland to continue with their regular attacks on the Scottish NHS alongside the rest of the SNPbad lies.

    Surely it doesn’t suit their agenda for Scots to hear that our NHS may have problems but that they pale into insignificance compared with what is happening south of the border.

    • Never mind a Scottish 6 – the SNP has never campaigned for a separate Scottish channel, as the Welsh did back in the 80s. They got their S4C and we got nothing, until the digital age and BBC Alba. Surely it would have been far better to have campaigned for a digital channel for Scotland, to include a mandatory portion of programming in Gaelic (say, 25%)? Now BBC Alba is facing cuts and its viewing figures are being used to justify these. It would have been far more viable as part of a Scottish channel. Just think what a Scottish TV channel could have done for employment in the Scottish TV and film industry and for a national sense of self-worth. News and current affairs coverage would have had to have been a part of such a channel.

    • Hi, please see my points above. Whilst the rest of Scotland’s NHS is undoubtedly better than south of the border in most respects, the mental health system is worse.

        • John – whilst claims are made that the Scottish system is the best in the world, there is absolutely no basis for this. You have to read my points above. Does it not appal you that they don’t publish the number of deaths nor do they even collate separate data for suicides in the Scottish mental health system? Does it not shock you that the deaths rate is twice as high in Scotland? The Judicial Review on the death of Janey Antoniou in England was intended to challenge the fact that the health boards themselves inquire into the deaths of patient in their care. In Scotland, even this doesn’t happen. I recommend that you read my articles.

        • What you’ve got to bear in mind here, John, is that the population base is a large one and the 1,000 deaths is over 4 years and covers both suicides and other deaths. it should concern all of us that there is a statistical black hole when it comes to what is happening in Scotland. Apart from deaths, there is no collation of data on assaults or other `adverse events`.

          The situation in Scotland is reflected in the fact that the Equalities and Human Rights Commission was able to undertake an investigation into deaths in the mental health system in England, but could only write a report on deaths in Scotland, as there was insufficient data, and that was only gleaned from the MWC `Deaths in Detention` report, prompted by my FOI, that had to retrospectively trawl for data, as only the data for numbers of those who died
          under each type of compulsory order was previously available.

          The mental health system, which locks up people with autism, just for autistic behaviours, is discriminatory and inhumane throughout the western world. The mental health system in the UK is dire, as the report on Southern Health and the report into the death of Connor Sparrowhawk can testify. The Scottish system is a closed book in comparison, and that is wrong. When politicians and others write off individual cases as unfortunate mistakes, when they have for years accepted fatuous assurances on the quality of care, without even having the curiousity to query why there are no statistics on deaths, or anything else, we should ask why this is so, With a death rate that is twice as high as that of England, the answer is clear.

          • Thanks Fiona
            It is a disturbing picture and clearly needs addressing urgently. You’ve certainly opened my eyes to something I knew too little of.
            My article doesn’t actually make any specific claims for improvements in mental health provision but rather is about reporting scotland’s double standards. I only mentioned the mental health trust in England because BBC mentioned it. My wife works as an admin asst for a group of community mental health nurses in Ayr. She knows that their waiting times for appointments (she types the letters and keeps records) are shorter now than in the recent past.
            only one case i know.

          • I’ve been very interested in your posts, and am certainly now persuaded that we urgently need proper statistical data on these issues. But how should we go about getting it? Could you perhaps start one of those online petitions, via one of the major sites for such things, to push Holyrood to begin the process of data collection?
            I’d be one of the first to sign, and would certainly post on FB to get others aware of the problem, and persuade them to sign too. I’m a member of various pro-Indy groups and my own (perhaps rather limited) contacts there have a wide circle of similarly-minded contacts of their own. If you were to start such a petition, and word it carefully, I’m sure you could soon get wide support. After all, one in six of us (I believe) will suffer from mental health problems at some point in our lives, many of us more than once.
            BTW does autism ‘belong’ in the same category? I ask because I really don’t know. I tend to think of mental health problems as coming into being, rather than existing from birth like autism. And is help for autism not largely an educational/behavioural matter rather than one of treatment, as one assumes with mental health problems.
            I can quite understand that people with autism might, perhaps as a result, also suffer from depression and/or anxiety. But are they then not in the same category of others with such issues, and so come under the heading of mental health problems, whereas autism, purely by itself, does not? And, if so, does it not perhaps do a disservice to those with autism but no separate mental health problems, to lump them together in this way?
            I’m sorry if I seem ignorant, but I am, genuinely, just that; I need to know more. Can you explain, please?

  5. Prof. John

    You’d find plenty to analyse on Shareen Nanjiani’s Saturday morning brain f@$k of a programme. Just had the Unionist take on the FRB. Lead by the Irish boss of The Big Issue in Scotland (a regular) all were very well briefed.

    Psst. Your article on the NHS should be distributed far and wide, Am gonae Facebook it.

  6. @Onwards we did have a Scottish Health Service until in the 90’s Forsythe renamed it The Scottish NHS.

  7. NHS better in Scotland?? Not in my experience. Pitiful out patient after care for mental health patients to the point of being life threatening.

    • Sorry to hear that Evelyn. I hope things are improving for you. I’ve been in Ayr Hospital several times in the last 4 or 5 years and always treated really well. Is it especially mental health care that is the worst?

  8. Eleanor Bradford – where is she? Last I heard she is now the structural engineering expert on road bridges! So expert those complaining couldn’t tell us when it was going to happen! Still Edinburgh got a lovely tram line 3 years late and hundreds of millions over budget delaying the A9 improvements and no doubt the start of the new Forth Road bridge.
    Who voted for a tram line again?

  9. My thanks,John,Fiona.Please keep us informed. Sadly the role our state broadcaster fails dismally in. Fiona, can you tell me if Phillipa Whiteford is actively trying to highlight these issues?

    • Pete – Phillipa Whitford is a Westminster MP and health is devolved to Holyrood, so it is really up to MSPs to sort out the problems. However, the devolution `settlement` doesn’t make things easy, as disability is reserved to Westminster, although services for disabled people are Holyrood’s responsibility. Human rights are pretty much pass the parcel between the SHRC, who have no powers to intervene in anything, and the EHRC, who have consistently refused to meet us and will only meet with lawyers (who, of course, have to be paid!). The EHRC use the fact that human rights responsibilities are split between Holyrood and Westminster to avoid having to do anything at all. We have lobbied MSPs, but the opportunity to begin to sort out the Mental Health Bill was passed up by the SNP, who wouldn’t even back an Amendment asking for a Review of the new Act within 3 years, to review the current inclusion of people with Learning Disability and ASD within the provisions of the Act. We have been lobbying them for the past 4 years, and other groups lobbied for this same change during 2 previous reviews of the Mental Health Act – in 2001 and 2009.

  10. Mental health care is a somewhat post code lottery. It also suffers from the past indiscretions of certain hospitals and staff. I refer to mental health and learning difficulties being classed as the same. I worked in care in the community for 17 years until I retired recently. Stories abound from ex patients and staff of the failings of the health service due to the fact that this area was classed as the cinderella service and lacked proper funding.
    Things have improved but not at the same rate as front line services which are generally headlined in the media.
    There are many problems that need addressed but it is not only the health service but there is no coherant structure for patients to be given adequate after care.
    The problems are many but if you cannot address all because some of the departments are reserved (welfare) there will be an ongoing issue.
    Patients need good after care good housing and good welfare and social support.

    • Thanks fraise
      I’ve clearly touched a raw nerve unintentionally. I was only attacking Reporting Scotland’s ongoing biases regarding statistics they are happy to use when it is bad news for the SG. Clearly I don’t know what is really happening on the ground and made no claims to know this.
      Best
      John

  11. To Eric Dodd
    Cant seem to reply directly under your response
    Thanks for it
    Seems to suggest, if they’re correct, that Fiona’s making her point too strongly. I can’t find any convincing recent research evidence comparing mental health targets in Scotland and rUK.
    John

    • John – how do you make a point too strongly?! The suicide stats are worse overall for Scotland – with no separate figures for those forced to undergo compulsory treatment or who are inpatients. The number of deaths are not published and are double what they are south of the border!

      • You seem to be saying that, on the basis of suicide rates only, that all mental health provision is worse in all of Scotland than in all of England. I’ve been trained to twitch when I hear that kind of statement. I mentioned earlier that my wife offers admin support for care in the community nurses working in SW Scotland and has done for several years. She maintains the records and is sure that waiting times have improved considerably in the last few years. I know that’s only one piece of evidence but it reinforces my belief that things are never as simple as you make out. And, regarding suicide rates, are you saying that the reason for regional differences is the quality of provision and record-keeping. I agree records should be kept. Could suicide levels in Scotland be affected also by levels of alcohol consumption, climate, vitamin D deficiency, subtle cultural differences especially in the North and West….?

        • John – you’re not taking on board what I’ve written, so there’ s not much point in repeating what I’ve said a number of times already, but I’ll try for one last time. You’ve put words in my mouth (so to speak). I’m saying that the Scottish Government makes out that the Mental Health Act is `world leading` and that it is `working well`. That is not the experience of people with autism and their families, and other families as well. In order to sort out just how good or bad this system is, you need reliable, coherent collation of data and publication of statistics from which you can make a proper analysis. Statistics on deaths, suicides, assaults and other `adverse events` should form basic measures of compliance with human rights. If you don’t have these, you cannot make such grandiose claims. When the only academic study to research assaults in the Scottish mental health system had to use media reports (which only covered a few of these assaults), because there is no data collated by health boards or anyone else, there is something far wrong. As there is when a full-time carer is doing the job of MSPs and the whole parliamentary apparatus.

          We would like the Scottish Government to act upon the testimony of the several families who have had the courage to tell them how abusive the mental health system is for their sons and daughters – but the SG tell us that they can’t discuss individual cases, even though they will always do so, when the mainstream media embarrasses them over some apparent failure, such as a complaint about the lack of blanket for a patient.

          Oh yes, and the reason that I asked the Mental Welfare Commission for the numbers of deaths is that they didn’t collate any information at all on people with autism within the Scottish mental health system, and they didn’t like my FOIs about this. After the pressure I’ve applied (without the benefit of mainstream media coverage), they are now beginning to do so. As I said to the chief exec of the MWC, why did we have to wait to mid-way through the second decade of the 21st century for this kind of basic information?

  12. But isn’t that exactly her point? There are no comparable data because .Holyrood doesn’t collect them.
    As a result we don’t accurately know how we are faring on this issue, and we should, because not knowing a) prevents us realising what might be a truly shocking state of affairs, not just in comparison with England but in and of itself, and b) not knowing prevents us from taking steps to improve matters.
    I have suggested to Fiona that she might consider starting one of those online petitions to out pressure on Holyrood simply to start collecting evidence and producing data. That would be an important first step towards improving mental health services for all Scots.

        • Oh no I didn’t. I only mentioned it because the BBC mentioned it. I don’t mention Mental Health provision in Scotland being better at all. My case is that Reporting Scotland make much of failures to achieve especially A&E targets yet fail to report improvements. Indeed last weeks stats show NHSS has exceeded the A&E target. No mention on RS.
          Is it possible you have a hair trigger re mental health issues and react even when they aren’t being discussed specifically. I agree provision UK-wide is appalling and that Mental Health provision is the Cinderella service.

          • Okay, John, but you did say `a staggering account of a failure of one Mental Health Trust to investigate more than 1 000 deaths`, and I’ve pointed out that deaths are not investigated at all in Scotland, which didn’t initially seem to register with you.

            Whilst your speciality is to dissect political media coverage in Scotland, you don’t seem to understand that the political bias shown is only a part of the picture. For instance, why wouldn’t the BBC do any coverage of the passage of the Mental Health Bill through the parliament? Why is their political coverage so totally reliant on concocted opposition, when they themselves should be covering the serious business of the parliament with a critical journalistic eye? It’s so boring, quite apart from anything else.

            As for `hair trigger`. I don’t know if you actually meant that sentence to sound as unpleasant as it did, but I think you should care that that’s how it came across. I did you the courtesy of reading your otherwise reasonable article – you might want to reciprocate by reading my articles, then you might – just might – begin to understand.

    • Aileen – thank you for your interventions. Unfortunately, there was a petition by Hunter Watson that asked for the Mental Health Act to be made compliant with the ECHR. It didn’t go anywhere. I did, however, submit a number of Amendments to the Mental Health Bill through my (SNP) constituency MSP Adam Ingram, who then handed these across at Stage 3 of the Bill to Richard Simpson, Labour’s health spokesperson and a former psychiatrist. Only one of these amendments was accepted by the Scottish Government, and it was the one on statistics! The Scottish Government had earlier claimed that they didn’t need to do anything, as their Patient Safety Programme would deal with the statistics issue, but I pointed out that this had been in place for some years and had still not come up with the goods. They did the absolute minimum. They refuse to make any commitment to changing the Mental Health Act, and are intent on diverting the whole issue on to a reconsideration of legislation on capacity instead.

    • Aileen – I can’t reply to your earlier post, so will post here.

      The provisions of the Mental Health Act apply to people with `mental disorders`. These are defined as mental illness, personality disorder and Learning Disability `however manifested`. Autistic Spectrum Disorders are included in this way under Learning Disability, but people with Asperger’s Syndrome (which is part of the autistic spectrum) can often be misdiagnosed as mental illness because mental illness diagnoses are subjectively diagnosed, using a diagnostic `bible` that is compiled by committees of psychiatrists who agree labels for external behaviours. People who are more autistic are too often given compulsory `treatment` just for being autistic, as their behaviour is deemed to be `challenging`. From the rough estimates made by the Mental Welfare Commission (again, prompted by my FOIs), they back the evidence supplied to us by our members and other families that people with autism are more likely to be compulsorily `treated` under the Mental Health Act. The law is clearly discriminatory and belongs to the era when no real distinction was made between mental disability and mental illness.

      And no, you are not ignorant – the law is an ass.

  13. From Scottish Government website today- good news! —

    National A&E performance was above 95% last week.- I don’t imagine BBC Reporting Scotland will highlight this positive news .
    ………………………

    http://scottishgovernment.presscentre.com/News/National-A-E-performance-above-95-206b.aspx

    ……………………..
    As an aside, earlier this year Eleanor Bradford emphasised the fact that NHS England issued A&E statistics weekly – the implication was that Scotland should do likewise. The BBC and Labour maintained the pressure on the Scottish Government until NHS Scotland followed suit.

    Well, times have changed in England, and they have decided they don’t want such up to date info on their NHS. Weekly statistics have been cancelled. As far as I can see, they are now being issued monthly.
    This BBC article on the subject is interesting-

    ………………………………
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-35075622
    …………………………………………….

  14. Hello again, Prof. Just an update re- my on-going complaint about Glenn Campbell’s “misleading” report on BBC Scotland’s 1.30pm news bulletin of Sept. 3rd, in which, “Glenn” clearly lied when stating that “the opposition parties challenged Nicola Sturgeon ON THE CREATION of a single Police Force”. Incidentally, ALL of my letters of complaint about BBC Scotland’s mis-reporting, have been dealt with entirely in England i.e. Darlington, and now London. And, with the feeble semantics the BBC’s respondents have employed in their replies to me, some could rightfully argue that the BBC has conducted a biased and, therefore, dishonest defence of their BBC Scotland colleague, “Glenn”. indeed, just how far the BBC establishment is willing to go in order to defend its ever shaky reputation, has been an eye-opener to even an old cynic like me!
    I am now in the process of writing yet another letter to London – thereafter, I expect to be dealing with the BBC Trust: the final stage of this extremely lengthy procedure. So, if you are still interested in how this SAGA proceeds, and ends, I will furnish said correspondence for your perusal. Best wishes meantime, Prof. – keep up the good work!

  15. To bring us back to the beginning, my article nowhere says that mental health provision specifically is better than in England. I’ve read all your material. Nowhere does it evidence that such in Scotland is ‘much worse’ than in England. Sweeping assertions like yours need reliable evidence. Your cause is undeniably a good one but there is little point in attacking the wrong target. I didn’t say what you think I said. Ask a friend to read it.

  16. A response from Ms Bradford:

    Anon:
    Dear Eleanor
    Would you care to comment on Prof Robertson’s post on Newsnet regarding the News blackout on BBC Scotland regarding the positive NHS figures which were prominent on all the other BBC regional reports.
    This is an example of the declining trust in you and the BBC in reporting in a balanced way.
    Censoring news like this is counter productive and further erodes your reputation in the eyes of the public. So when you do report an increasing amount of listeners and viewers do not believe what you say or find your investigations credible.
    I look forward to your reply setting out why you decided the Scottish people were to be denied a report showing Scotland NHS in a good light.
    Yours

    Dear Anon
    My response to Ms Bradford

    EB: Professor Robertson’s article makes several mistakes in his analysis of our coverage of Scotland’s waiting time performance on 10th December.

    JR: Ms Bradford’s use of the word ‘mistakes’ perhaps reveals a simplistic or positivistic way of thinking about news reporting where are there are to most minds few mistakes but many more differences of opinion. This can result in unconscious bias.

    EB: First of all he suggests that Reporting Scotland chose not to report the waiting time stats because it is biased, yet he himself points out that we did report them online. This suggests that the journalists working for Reporting Scotland have a biased agenda, but those working for online don’t. However the journalist for both TV and online come from the same team and I provide advice on health matters to both outlets. Why would I provide biased advice to one programme, yet not to the other?

    JR: This is obfuscation of the first order. Reporting Scotland is the flagship outlet for BBC Scotland news and one which attracts the more mature voters that we know are more likely to be scared by alleged health crises. In the months before the 2015 General Election, Reporting Scotland, mainly fronted by Ms Bradford, serially referred to alleged failures in the Scottish NHS.On one or more occasion, in this period, she reported inaccurately on stories from England (Torbay) suggesting superiority in the system there. The performance in recent months demonstrates clearly better performance in Scotland than in England. To ensure a degree of balance, this relatively good new deserved to be reported. My full report, revealing this and notably showing how fair by contrast STV were, can be found at: http://thoughtcontrolscotland.com/2015/04/29/propaganda-or-professionalism-on-pacific-quay/

    EB: The reason TV bulletins did not report the waiting time figures for Scotland was because the story on UK-wide programmes was prompted by the publication of waiting time figures for England, and England only. The waiting time figures for Scotland had been released two days previously. It made sense to include the Scottish figures within a story about England’s performance to provide context (along with figures for Wales and Northern Ireland), but it was not breaking news which needed to be reported in a programme which was only being broadcast in Scotland. The BBC in Wales did not report the waiting time figures for Wales that day either, for the same reason. I have been unable to access the running order for Northern Ireland that day but I would assume they didn’t report ‘old’ waiting time figures, simply because UK-wide news programmes were doing so.

    JR: Again, confused, evasive or just ill-informed, the above does not answer the question. Bad news about SNHS features heavily on RS, improvements do not. Two days is ‘old’? That’s a new level of tightness for RS. I agree it made sense to include it in the BBC 1 report for comparison but this has never presented RS repeating bad news stories for the Scottish Government as often as they can.

    EB: As the Scottish waiting time figures are released every 7 days, we only report them when they change dramatically or reach a statistically significant high or low. The figures released on 8th December where not significantly high (since the NHS has performed better than this in the past) but neither were they significantly low. Therefore we chose to concentrate on other stories of more significance.

    JR: Again Pravda-like distortion of reality is Ms Bradford’s defence strategy. The first sentence is a clear lie if you look at reporting on A&E targets in Spring 2015. The figures including hitting the targets for the first time in Winter and ahead of the rest of the UK – not significant? Define significance for me. I’ll share this wider and let everybody I can laugh at Ms Bradford’s wriggling.

    Douglas: You (not Ms Bradford?) wrote: The comments made undermines your standing at UWS and questions whether you are a suitable person to hold such a prestigious position. What? Anyway, I resigned my professorship in protest at nepotism in UWS and retire this month.

    Best John

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