BBC Scotland reporter accused of using bogus figures in NHS scare story

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  By a Newsnet reporter

BBC Scotland has come under fire after it was alleged to have used exaggerated figures in a report into ward occupancy rates in Scotland’s NHS.

Health secretary Alex Neil hit back at the broadcaster after a report claimed occupancy rates were as high as 133% in some hospitals as beds were borrowed from other wards.

Responding to the claims from the BBC that patients were being put at risk, Mr Neil said he was concerned about “some of the wilder claims” from the broadcaster.

He added: “Some of the figures quoted by the BBC are just quite frankly not true and do not reflect the information provided by the boards.”

Mr Neil cited the example of Inverclyde Hospital in Greenock, which the broadcaster had claimed had an occupancy rate of 133%.  However official figures from Greater Glasgow and Clyde health Board showed the real figure to be 35% lower.

Highlighting the improbability of the BBC claims, the health minister said; “If there had been a hundred and thirty three per cent occupancy rate, that would have meant that at midnight when these things are calculated, there would have been thirty three patients admitted to hospital sitting on chairs and trolleys.

“That just never happened.”

According to Greater and GlasgowClyde Health Board: “The occupancy rate for surgical and medical specialities at Inverclyde Royal during the period covered by the BBC ranged from 76% to 97.7%.”

The BBC report was co-compiled by reporter Eleanor Bradford who, despite the official statement from the Greater and GlasgowClyde Health Board, repeated her claims on that evening’s Reporting Scotland.

The episode is not the first to call into question the accuracy of the reporter’s figures on the Scottish NHS.  In 2013, Ms Bradford was embroiled in a row after she was accused of presenting false figures relating to waiting times in the Scottish NHS.

In a BBC article published on January 12th last year, Ms Bradford claimed that “As many as 3,500 people at risk of bone fractures are waiting eight months for a scan to detect osteoporosis at a clinic in Aberdeen.”

Those claims also featured on the flagship news programme Reporting Scotland.

However, Newsnet Scotland discovered the statement was untrue – the 3,500 figure was the number of patients treated by the centre in a year and NOT as claimed by the BBC the number who were affected by the 32 week delay.

Indeed, it also emerged that the figures had already been published on NHS Grampian’s own website since October 3rd 2011 – fully 15 months before the BBC Scotland reporter’s own claims.

NHS Grampian put out a detailed statement following the BBC report which refuted all of the allegations made by Eleanor Bradford in no uncertain terms.

It subsequently emerged that, far from 3,500 people having been affected by the scanner problem at NHS Grampian as claimed by BBC Scotland, the real figure was closer to one hundred.

An audit report found that NHS Grampian was fully compliant with the waiting list guidelines and that there were only a few technical problems which have since been addressed to the extent which they can be under the constraints of their IT systems.

Suspicions over BBC Scotland’s approach to the Scottish NHS increased in 2013 when information acquired by Newsnet Scotland showed that Freedom of Information requests to NHS boards from the BBC surged when the SNP came to power in 2007.

It revealed that BBC Scotland FoI requests had increased by almost seven hundred per cent compared with Labour’s last year in power at Holyrood and fuelled speculation that the broadcaster was fishing for ‘bad’ news stories in an attempt at undermining confidence in both the SNP administration and the Scottish health service.

Related article: http://www.newsnetscotland.com/index.php/scottish-news/5962-what-was-behind-bbc-scotlands-attack-on-the-scottish-nhs