Surely anyone with a scrap of compassion will be moved and shocked by the dreadful story of Kane Gorny, the 22-year-old who died of dehydration in Saint George’s Hospital in Tooting, South London. Bad enough that anyone should die in an English hospital of entirely preventable causes. Bad enough that standards of care were lax enough that no proper checks were made on his level of dehydration. But it was worse than that. Both Kane and his mother, Rita Cronin, had pointed out his condition to the staff. They were ignored. Incredibly, Kane himself was so worried, and so thirsty, that he even called the police to get help — but they were turned away by the medical staff.
So it is very important to understand what went wrong, and why. And here we find a stark contrast in the reporting of the coroner’s findings by the BBC on the one hand, and the Daily Telegraph on the other. The BBC Today Programme devoted several minutes on Friday morning to a discussion, which centred on the (very justified) criticisms of the treatment and the hospital staff. It then went into a general discussion of nursing and nurses’ attitudes, and soon got on the familiar territory of criticising the profession as “too academic”. There was a need to bring in nursing staff who might not be top-flight in academic terms, but who had a natural vocation for health-care and a natural compassion for patients.
The Telegraph, reporting the same Coroner’s verdict, took a very different line. The headline read “Dehydration death was caused by EU rules”.
Now putting the reports together, it seems that the Coroner criticised both the “cascade of failures” by medical staff that allowed Kane Gorny to die of dehydration, but also the EU Working Time Directive, which had limited the availability of key staff. Clearly both of these criticisms have substance. Clearly the Telegraph was right to report both. The question arises, why did the BBC in its extensive Today Programme report, not see fit to mention the EU angle? Nor does it appear to cover this angle on its web-site: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-18814487
Of course the BBC cannot report everything, but this is an important story of great public interest. The facts rather suggest that the zeitgeist of the BBC discourages anything that smacks of criticism of the European Union.
We have known for a long time about the damage which the EU’s Working Time Directive is doing to the NHS in general, and to doctors’ training in particular. Taxed with this, the EU institutions would no doubt say that the solution was simply to train and hire more staff. Unfortunately with the present parlous state of the NHS finances, hiring more staff is not an easy option.