Ruling

Resolution statement 02575-19 NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde v Daily Record

    • Date complaint received

      15th August 2019

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Resolution statement 02575-19 NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde v Daily Record

Summary of complaint

1. NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Record breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Gran fights for life in yet another hospital infection”, published on 13 February 2019, and an article headlined “End this culture of secrecy over NHS infections”, published on 14 February 2019.

2. The first article reported that a named woman was “fighting for [her] life after becoming the latest patient to contract a deadly hospital infection” at a named hospital. It reported that the woman’s family “said they only learned of the latest infection from the hospital’s website” in relation to a press release posted on the hospital’s website, and quoted the woman’s daughter as saying that this was “’a terrible way to find out’”. The article reported a statement from a spokesman for the complainant, who “insisted the family were informed of the infection three days before the issue of the press release”.

3. The first article appeared online on the same day, under the same headline and in substantially the same format.

4. The second article reported on a political party’s calls for “an end to the ‘culture of secrecy’ surrounding the woman and repeated the claims from the woman’s family which were included in the first article. A response from the complainant was also included, who “insisted the family was kept informed about the [type of infection] and told [the woman] had contracted it before a statement was released”.

5. The second article appeared online on the same day, under the same headline and in substantially the same format.

6. The complainant was responsible for the hospital the articles referred to; it said that the articles were inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy). The complainant said that it had explained to the publication, prior to the first article being published, that the family had first been told that the woman had a fungal infection on 15 January, and that subsequently, on 21 January – the day before the press release was issued - a consultant had spoken to the family again and informed them of the type of the infection. It said that it had also provided the publication with a copy of the press release, which did not give any information that identified any patients, or mention the type of the infection. As such, the complainant said that it was inaccurate for the articles to state that the family had only learned of the woman’s infection and the type of infection from the website.

7. The publication said that the family may have been informed in passing about the infection prior to the press, but if so, this was a fleeting mention, and their impression was that this was of no consequence; it said that “the family would remember if they had been told their family [member] had a potentially deadly [type of infection] before they had read it on a public site”. The publication accepted that the family may have obtained information about the severity and nature of the infection from another publication which had reported comments from the complainant, in addition to the press release itself; however, irrespective of where this information was published, the publication said that it was accurate to state that the family had found out about the severity of the infection from information released by the complainant, before they were officially told themselves. The publication said it had a recording of the family saying that they only knew the extent of the fungal infection, and how deadly it was, after the information was released to the press. It also said that the articles made clear the complainant’s position on the matter.

Relevant Code Provisions

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.

Mediated Outcome

8. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.

9. During IPSO’s investigation, the newspaper offered to add the following wording as a footnote to the first online article and in print on page 2 in its corrections and complaints column:

A story on Feb 13 about a woman who died after contracting the infection mucor fungus at [Named Hospital] stated that her family found out that their relative had contracted [infection] through the hospital’s press release alone. In fact, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde's press release did not refer to the [named] infection or its severity. The family were told that their relative had a fungal infection prior to the press release being published. We therefore accept that we reported in error that the family only found out about a [named] infection through a press release on the hospital website.

10. The complainant said that this resolved the matter to its satisfaction.

11. 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: 18/03/2019

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 14/05/2019