03005-16 Weir v Braintree & Witham Times

Decision: No breach - after investigation

Decision of the Complaints Committee 03005-16 Weir v Braintree & Witham Times

Summary of complaint

1. Clive Weir, the Manager/Director of Boars Tye Residential Home Ltd, complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Braintree & Witham Times breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Care home told it must improve”, published on 5 May 2016.

2. The article reported that the Care Quality Commission (CQC) had told Boars Tye Residential home that it “must improve”. It said that the home had breached three of the CQC’s regulations, with the regulator concluding that it “requires improvement”. It said that during its inspection, the CQC had found that there were “no systems in place to ensure people had medications safely and on two occasions residents were given medications at the wrong time”. The piece concluded by stating that the complainant was “not prepared to comment until he had a chance to write a formal report”.

3. The complainant said that the newspaper had only reported the negative aspects of the CQC report giving a significantly misleading impression of the regulator’s conclusions. The CQC had, in fact, concluded that the home had “very caring staff” with contented residents and happy relatives. In addition, the report had said that the home had not always had the documentation in place to evidence staff procedures.

4. The complainant said that the overall tone of the article had distorted the CQC’s conclusions. For instance, the newspaper had “sensationally” asserted that the home had been “branded” – rather than “rated” – as “requires improvement”. He also noted that the CQC had not concluded that there were “no systems in place” to ensure that medication was administered safely; the regulator had been referring to one specific issue.

5. The newspaper said that the CQC’s findings were “serious and in the public interest”. These findings included residents having been given the wrong medicine, ineffective measures in place to ensure residents were safe, and criticism of the overall service provided by the home. It noted that the CQC report had stated that it had “found that there were not systems in place to ensure that people had their medications safely”.

6. Given the seriousness of the CQC’s findings, the reporter had approached the complainant for comment before publication, but he had declined. Following the article’s publication, the complainant was also offered a follow-up piece, but he again declined. The newspaper considered that he had been given ample opportunity to raise any positive aspects of the CQC report.

7. The complainant said that he had not been offered a follow-up article by the newspaper; he requested a published apology.

Relevant Code provisions

8. Clause 1 (Accuracy)

i)  The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.

ii)  A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.

iii)   A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.

iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

Findings of the Committee

9. The CQC had found that the home had breached three out of five Health and Social Care Act 2008 regulations during its inspection, and it had concluded that overall the home “requires improvement”. The newspaper had been entitled to focus on these points; it was not obliged to additionally report that the home had been rated “good” for the two remaining regulations. The selection of material for publication is a matter of editorial discretion, as long as the published content does not otherwise breach the Code. Selecting these elements of the report had not distorted the CQC’s conclusions; it did not represent a breach of Clause 1.

10. The statement that there were “no systems in place to ensure people had their medications safely” was not significantly misleading. In its report, the CQC had said “we found that there were not systems in place to ensure that people had their medications safely”. The newspaper had also been entitled to assert that the home had been “branded”, rather than “rated”, as “requires improvement”; this characterisation of the CQC’s conclusion was not misleading.

11. The newspaper had accurately reported the details of the breaches identified by the CQC, and it had given the complainant the opportunity to comment in advance. There was no failure to take care over the accuracy of the article in breach of Clause 1 (i). The Committee did not identify a significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion, which would require correction under the Code. There was no breach of Clause 1.


12. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial action required

13. NA

Date complaint received: 17/05/16
Date decision issued: 11/07/16

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