Complaint 09524-16 Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Trust v Daily Mail
Summary of Complaint
1. Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Trust complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Mail breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Police to probe 4 death pathway cases at the same hospital", published on 17 September 2016, and in an article headlined “'Murdered' by the pathway”, published on 24 September 2016. The articles were also published online with the respective headlines “Police to probe four death pathway cases at the same hospital: Families believe their loved ones were wrongly put on end-of-life care and might have survived if medication had not been withdrawn” and “'Murdered' by the pathway: How Margaret's doctors told her family she had terminal cancer, then put her on a death pathway that should have been scrapped”.
2. Both articles reported on the deaths of four patients at the Trust. They reported that these patients had been placed on “end-of-life care pathways”. The articles went through each case, describing the circumstances of the patient’s death. The 17 September article reported that the police were reviewing two of the cases, that they had privately indicated they may look into a third case, and that in the fourth case the daughter of the deceased was “set to make a complaint to the police”. The 24 September article reported that a detective chief inspector was examining the deaths before deciding whether to launch a formal investigation.
3. The complainant said that the articles contained a number of inaccuracies in relation to each of the cases reported. It said that the articles suggested it had continued to use the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP), after its abolition, and that it was uncaring to those at the end of life. It said that in none of the cases referred to in the article was the patient placed on the LCP, and said it has been rated as having ‘Outstanding’ End of Life Care by the Care Quality Commission. It said that the newspaper failed to include the full response it had provided prior to publication, denying it the opportunity to respond in full. The complainant said that in relation to one case, the article did not make clear that the police had issued a report stating that the patient’s death was not as a consequence of a criminal offence. The complainant said that the headline claim: “’Murdered’ by the pathway”, was inaccurate, and offensive.
4. The newspaper said that it had spoken to the families in the cases reported the articles, and had taken care to seek the comments of both the complainant and the police. It said that the articles reflected the views and the opinions of the families, but that in each article, the complainant’s comments were reported. It said that neither the police nor the complainant had referred to the police report the complainant referred to in its complaint, and it believed that the police were still investigating this case. The newspaper said that the full statement from the Trust was not included in the articles for reasons of space.
Relevant Code Provisions
5. 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.
6. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
7. Following IPSO’s intervention, the newspaper offered to publish the following clarification, in print and online:
Articles on 17 and 24 of September said that police were examining the death of Margaret Hesketh after she was allegedly placed incorrectly on an end of life pathway at a Wigan hospital. While police investigations are on-going, the Hospital Trust has since made us aware that a police review in April 2016 concluded that the death was ‘not as a consequence of a criminal offence’ and that the hospital staff had ‘provided appropriate treatment in accordance with protocols.’
The newspaper offered to update the online articles by publishing the previously unpublished sentences from the complainant’s statement. It said it had circulated a note of the complainant’s concerns internally. While it said that it had no current plans for publication of articles which refer to the cases reported in the articles under complaint, the internal note contained an instruction that the complainant be approached for comment at the earliest opportunity, if and when any new articles are being prepared.
7. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to its satisfaction.
8. As the complaint was successfully mediated, the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as to whether there had been any breach of the Code.
Date complaint received: 19/10/2016
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 02/02/2017
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