Countering media bias is currently monitoring BBC political output in the expectation of showing bias. In my view, the approach they’ve taken is unsatisfactory – it’s aimed at cheering up the troops and inciting hatred of the BBC, rather than winning over doubters by showing the true facts. A recent case concerned Reporting Scotland’s news item about data relating to NHS staffing levels. You can read their criticism of Reporting Scotland here; below is my suggested rewrite.

BBC Reporting Scotland : NHS Staffing Levels : Broadcast on Monday 31st July 2017

This news item relates to a consultation initiated by the Scottish government under the title, “Safe and Effective Staffing in Health and Social Care”. The government’s aim is to introduce a law requiring health boards to maintain safe staffing levels, thus securing patients’ protection and defining providers’ responsibilities. This is an aim which it would be difficult to disagree with.

The consultation is being carried out in Scotland by the Royal College of Nursing, who recently presented interim findings to a committee of the Scottish Parliament. The findings show broad satisfaction with existing staffing levels: about two-thirds of respondents raised no concerns. Asked whether a shortage of health care support workers affected patient care, three-quarters said No; asked whether patient care was compromised by staff shortages in general, half said No; and asked whether a shortage of registered nurses affected their ability to deliver high-quality care, two-thirds said No.


So there was no bad news here: respondents were on the whole satisfied with current staffing levels.

Of course it remains true that between a quarter and a half of respondents did have concerns, but in the context of a consultation seeking to determine whether there’s a need for the proposed law, that’s not surprising. Indeed, it’s welcome, because it provides information that can take us forward.

Reporting Scotland, however, like many anti-independence groups, consistently seeks to belittle the achievements of the Scottish government. One way of doing this is to say that a set of figures that shows satisfactory results actually shows terrible results. In the present case Reporting Scotland said, in terms, that the findings show that “staff shortages in the NHS are compromising patient care”, which is the opposite of what the data says. They supported their claim by highlighting in shocked tones the proportion of respondents who said there was a problem – about one-third – and not mentioning at all the two-thirds who were satisfied.

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