For the BBC, the NHS Privatisation Debate is Over

Graham Bell, 6 December 2011 | 3 Comments

Categories: BBC News | David Cameron | NHS | Politics |

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The BBC News website's reporting about changes to the NHS now, more than ever, ignores the voice of the overwhelming majority of UK citizens who do not want to see moves towards privatisation of the NHS. On the 5th December, reporting on David Cameron's speech about the "NHS-Industry" partnership plainly regurgitates the fallacies of Cameron's reasons for getting the private sector involved – that he is interested in the NHS becoming “the fastest adopter of new ideas in the world”, knowing that industry involvement will resemble a “huge magnet to pull new innovations through”.

The balance in this report focuses on privacy concerns, and is summarised in the usual way at the start of the article: “But critics say commercial interests are being put ahead of patient privacy”. Note the language used to describe both sides of the argument right at the beginning of the article:

The PM wants to give patients faster access...
But critics say commercial interests...
Ministers believe Britain can become a world leader...

The objectives of leaders are portrayed as positive, even progressive, while the major motives behind the changes to the NHS go unchallenged. On the other hand, “critics” try to stand in the way of this progress. Interestingly, there is no more mention of concerns of privatisation of the NHS, which is now seen as a given. The focus of criticism in this case is now shifted towards privacy concerns regarding the provision of patient's data to private companies, yet the connection is not made that this is itself a result of privatisation.

On the same day, more reporting about NHS changes came from Nick Triggle, the BBC health correspondent, who has in recent months proven himself to be overwhelmingly in favour of private sector involvement in UK healthcare. Last March in an article entitled “NHS accused of bias against private sector”, Triggle wrote about health managers who are “rebelling against plans to create greater competition in the NHS”. The article pits the private sector as the underdog, showing a table of “NHS tactics” used as part of this “bias against” the private sector. Yesterday, he wrote a similar empathy-filled article for the private sector, reporting that GPs are being “bullied” away from making their NHS reforms.

In general, Triggle refuses to pay heed to the enormous opposition among the British public to the “reforms” in the NHS. Neither does he acknowledge the results of a poll carried out by the British Medical Association in March, which found that “66% [of doctors] agree that the proposed system of clinician-led commissioning will increase health inequalities”. Rather, he sides with Mike Dixon, chairman of the NHS Alliance, who says that doctors trying to make reforms are being “bullied”, and who, in June of this year called upon the government to speed up NHS reforms in certain areas of the country.

That the public-funded news reporting has drifted so far from public opinion, now ignoring polls, petitions, and professional concerns about changes to the NHS, is alarming. It assumes that the battle against privatisation of the NHS has been lost, which is certainly not the case. Yet it looks as though reporters across the entire media will continue to overlook the wishes of the public.

Categories in which this article appears: BBC News | David Cameron | NHS | Politics |

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Comments (3)

1. Anonymous06 December 2011 12:40

This comes as no surprise to me. It's just a way of distracting the public to make them feel as though it's fruitless to debate or even take part in a poll. Hopefully, this will motivate the public to be louder than those reporting in this manner.

2. Richard Blogger04 January 2012 13:09

Sadly, this is far too true, the output from the BBC has been dire. If I were to be fair, I would say that it is actually lazy incompetence of BBC journalists simply regurgitating the articles the Department of Health have written for them, but it has the same effect as their journos having a privatisation agenda.

For example. Last year the BBC ran with a story saying that NHS consultants earned £100k in overtime. This didn't ring true, so on my website I investigated if it was possible:

What I found was that if the consultant was super-human and spent *all* of their spare time doing overtime it was just about possible. The BBC had managed to "find" just one such consultant. Statistics from the NHS shows that the majority of consultants earn a lot less from overtime (not reported by the BBC).

The question is how did the BBC get the information about this single super-human consultant? Perhaps it was from the source of the story: the Department of Health.

3. lesley04 January 2012 16:06

I did email Helen Boaden when the NHS bill was only getting coverage about Nadine Dorries' abortion amendment - no reply

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