Dear Mr Sutherland
Thank you for getting in touch. We’re naturally sorry to learn of your annoyance about a reference to the Mid-Staffs inquiry by Jeremy Vine in his BBC Radio 2 programme broadcast on 16 July 2014. Recognising the strength of your concerns, we immediately reviewed the programme segment in question and discussed your concerns personally and at length with the programme’s Editor.
To clarify the context, Jeremy was introducing an upcoming discussion topic by posing the question to listeners, ‘Do hospital or care home inspections ever work?’. To give context, he went on to mention the Francis Report and its findings as an example of the type of thing to be discussed, describing the Report as having sent shockwaves through the NHS at the time. Jeremy then very briefly mentioned some of the points which had emerged surrounding Mid-Staffs, and he made a reference to patients drinking water from vases.
Having reviewed all matters very carefully in light of your complaint, we acknowledge that we got it wrong here. Through a desire for brevity in this short introductory sequence, it may have appeared to listeners that it was being suggested that the drinking from vases point formed a part of Robert Francis QC’s published findings when, as you rightly say, it did not.
It should have been made clear that the specific point was referenced by Prime Minister David Cameron in his statement to the House of Commons in response to the publication of the Francis Report (www.gov.uk/government/speeches/francis-report-pm-statement-on-mid-staffs-public-inquiry), a reference apparently based on a very widely-reported claim by the founder of the Cure the NHS group, Julie Bailey, and one which subsequently formed part of her oral evidence to a House of Lords Select Committee (www.parliament.uk/documents/lords-committees/Inquiries-Act-2005/IA_Written_Oral_evidencevol.pdf).
Nevertheless, we’re very sorry that we got it wrong here, and we are very grateful indeed that you have brought this matter to our attention thus allowing us to fully investigate and respond, and also to take action. We would like to assure you that the programme’s Editor has taken your point on board and will personally speak to the entire programme team to ensure that very careful thought is given to any future references of this nature to make sure we get things right and achieve absolute clarity.
On a wider point, you’ll understand that it’s not for us to pass any comment on Ms Bailey’s claim that patients were drinking out of flower vases, nor to comment on the fact that you evidently judge her claim to be “a lie and is not backed up by anything”, that you believe “there is no evidence that this happened”, and that in your view “it never happened”. We are only able to focus on what we actually broadcast here and we acknowledge that we got it wrong on this occasion and for this we offer our apologies to you. We didn’t set out to cause any offence or distress or to misrepresent the situation, and we hope you will accept our apology and can agree that we have taken immediate action to prevent recurrence as a direct result of your contact with us.
Thank you again for getting in touch.