The Telegraph’s up to its tricks again, as part of multi-fronted media attack on the NHS to weaken public trust and affection for it. The sorry excuse for a broadsheet has published a nonsense article clearly designed to paint the NHS in a damning light, with a starting paragraph, underneath the ‘half of families suffer’ headline, claiming:
Patients routinely struggle to get the treatment they believe they need and experience rudeness, neglect and in some cases physical abuse, according to polling by YouGov.
The frustrating thing is that so many people are fooled by this kind of specious tosh when it’s so easy to deconstruct and expose for what it is with just a little thought. Let’s look at its claims one by one and do just that:
Respondents or ‘someone in their family’
This illogical rubbish appears in two forms:
Sixteen per cent said they had personally experienced poor care, while another 30 per cent said their relatives had suffered poor care in the past decade – a total of 46 per cent.
Of these, 43 per cent – or around one in five of all respondents – said they or their relative had treatment or diagnoses that were wrong.
Do you see the error? One of my relatives is currently in hospital (and receiving very good treatment). But let’s say I was asked whether I had a relative in hospital by a polling organisation. I would, of course, answer yes.
But so would my brothers, my father, his brothers, their kids – and so on and so on – all because of one person in hospital.
Now imagine there had been some ‘poor care’ – let’s say a nurse not answering a buzzer for a while because all the nurses were busy with urgent, life-threatening cases.
Factor in the obvious fact that bad news travels fast because people love to complain and gossip, and you have easily hundreds of people, all of whom could answer ‘yes’ to the pollster – all talking about the same case.
Of course, it’s unlikely that the 2,000 people surveyed were all talking about the same relative. But the number of links any patient has to friends and family massively multiplies the probability of a ‘yes’ response – without any bearing on how much poor care really exists.
Patients as doctors
According to the Telegraph, one in five said ‘they or their relative had treatment or diagnoses that were wrong’. But most patients do not have the expertise to know this – which is why we need doctors in the first place. And still that ‘family multiplier applies.
The article goes on to claim that
52 per cent – or one in four of the total survey – said they had suffered neglect or ‘lack of care’. Some 42 per cent said they had encountered rudeness or lack of respect, and 39 per cent said they had difficulty in getting the treatment they needed.
Note how nothing is defined, either here or in the preceding paragraph. What are respondents calling ‘poor care’ or ‘neglect’? What kind or degree of rudeness/lack of respect, exactly? What kind of ‘difficulty in getting treatment’?
We don’t know, because it’s not stated. Respondents may have considered it rude if a nurse brushed past them without saying ‘good morning’ or answering a question – but that nurse may have been rushing to administer urgent care to someone.
‘Difficulty getting treatment’ might, to some people, mean waiting half an hour for treatment in a highly-pressured Accident and Emergency unit – or having to travel to a GP for an examination before being referred to a hospital. People can be very blinkered and selfish.
‘Poor care’ or neglect, to some, might mean having to wait an hour for a shave because nurses were busy completing the medicine round or dealing with someone having a heart attack – I’m using real life examples of complaints I’ve heard made to nurses by people who were too self-centred to realise that their need had to wait a little while.
And, don’t forget, we’re still talking about ‘or their relative’, so that multiplication effect is still there. I guess the Telegraph just ‘neglected’ to mention it.
The past 10 years
This is perhaps the most pathetically sneaky, because it’s so obvious if you think even just a little about what is said:
Despite tens of billions of pounds being invested in the NHS, 46 per cent of respondents said they thought standards of care had declined over the past ten years, while just 20 per cent thought standards had risen.
In 2010, under the last Labour government, the NHS had its highest-ever public satisfaction rating: 70%. ‘Highest ever’ means that it had been rising in the years previously to reach that peak – it can’t mean anything else.
So, when the Telegraph says ‘over the past 10 years’, what it’s really saying is that standards have declined over the past 3 years – ‘strangely’ the three years under the current government.
But by framing the question to address the past 10 years, the pollsters (YouGov) – or the Telegraph if the misleading framing is down to the newspaper – are being deceptive, in order to lead readers to link the deterioration to the previous government instead of putting it squarely where it really belongs. The longer time-frame also gives the impression that there has been a long, steady decline instead of the real picture of up, up, up, highest ever – and then downhill under a government that is sucking funds out of the NHS but denying that it is creating a problem.
Those mean old nurses again
The section concludes with this:
Two in five thought nurses were less caring than in the past and that they prioritised hitting targets over caring for patients.
Not a word of context for this statement – nor presumably for the poll questions that led to it: the drastic underfunding and understaffing being inflicted on the NHS by a government that wants to see it fail and will brazenly ignore the most emphatic finding of the Francis report in its ‘response’ to it.
Not a word about the 7,000 nurse posts that have been cut under the coalition – nor of the almost 20,000 nursing posts (not to mention thousands of other functions) simply left unfilled in order to cut costs.
The Telegraph has plenty of ‘form’ for unfounded and deliberately misleading attacks on the NHS – even to the extent of telling its sub-editors to leave in irrelevant material in an article to make it more damning of the NHS.
This pathetic article, of which the Telegraph’s health journalists should be ashamed, is just more of the same. We need to make people wise to this cynical and venal tactic, so please spread the word.