Ruling

Resolution Statement – 12617-22 Fulstow v mirror.co.uk

    • Date complaint received

      11th May 2023

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 4 Intrusion into grief or shock

Resolution Statement 12617-22 Fulstow v mirror.co.uk

Summary of Complaint 

1.    Steve Fulstow complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that mirror.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief of shock) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Grandad left in hospital corridor chair for 11 hours DIES while waiting for bed”, published on 31 November 2022. 

2.    The article reported on care the complainant’s father had received at Hull Royal Infirmary - where he later died – and which the family considered to be “inhumane”. The headline was “Grandad left in hospital corridor chair for 11 hours DIES while waiting for bed”. The article reported that “Bryan Fulstow was left on a chair while waiting for a bed in hospital. He died at Hull Royal Infirmary on November 15.“ It went on to report that “the pensioner had been taken to A&E six days earlier with suspected sepsis, before being moved to the frailty assessment ward, then onto a chair while waiting for a bed.” The complainant was quoted in the article saying: “He sat in a corridor with hundreds of people walking past and a catheter stuck on him for 11 hours. Where is the dignity in that?” The article explained that, “after the wait, Steve said Bryan was put into a cubicle on his own. His son added: ‘I think that had a big role to play in his death. If he wasn’t in a room on his own there would have been people there to help him. He was starting to improve. The next thing we had a call to say he had a fall. He’d hit his head and that’s what the medical examiner’s office said had killed him.’”

3.    The complainant said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 as the headline suggested that his father had died in a chair. He said that his father had been waiting in a chair for treatment for 11 hours, however, he was later transferred to a cubicle where several days later he fell and hit his head. He said the head injury had been identified as the cause of death. He said the text of the article was accurate, however the headline was wrong. 

4.    The complainant further said the article had breached Clause 4 as he believed the headline was insensitive and sensationalist. He said it was very distressing for the headline to report his father’s death inaccurately. He said he had not expected the article to be syndicated nationally. 

5.    During direct correspondence between the complainant and the publication, prior to the complainant making a complaint to IPSO, the publication offered its sympathies to the complainant and removed the article in an attempt to resolve this complaint. Notwithstanding this, the publication did not accept a breach of the Code – it said the article did not state that the complainant’s father had died in a chair, however it did accept that the headline could be misinterpreted and apologised for this. The publication said the article had reported on the family’s view on the length of time Bryan Fulstow was left on the chair, and had later explained accurately the sequence of events in the hospital, making clear the fall and subsequent head injury was the cause of death. 

6.    While it was sorry to hear of the upset caused, the publication did not consider the article had engaged Clause 4. It said the complainant had not raised any concern regarding the conduct or behaviour of the journalist in regard to any approaches made.

Relevant Clause 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. 

Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock)

In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively. These provisions should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings.

Mediated Outcome 

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

8.    During IPSO’s investigation the publication offered to print the following standalone correction and apology on its website in their Corrections & Clarifications column:

Bryan Fulstow - A correction

A previous article was headlined: 'Grandad left in hospital corridor chair for 11 hours DIES while waiting for bed'. The story reported how Mr Fulstow had to wait 11 hours for a bed just days before he died. We would like to make clear that he was not 'waiting for a bed' at the time he died as described in the headline. In fact, Bryan was in his own cubicle. We are happy to clarify this and apologise for the error. 

9.    The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to his satisfaction. 

10.  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: 24/11/2023

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 03/04/2023