The Daily Mirror has published a front page IPSO ruling after it was found to have distorted comments by former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt about the NHS winter crisis as the basis of personal criticism against him.
This marks the second time the Independent Press Standards Organisation has used its powers to force a front page correction in under a week, after the Daily Mail ran a similarly sized reference on Friday.
IPSO upheld an accuracy complaint from the Department of Health and Social Care against the Mirror over a splash published on 9 February under the headline: “You’re off the trolley”, which continued on page five.
The newspaper accused “arrogant” Jeremy Hunt, then Health Secretary, of refusing to apologise for the NHS’s “inability to cope with the worst winter ever” in an interview with ITV News the previous day.
The story was published online under the headline: “Hospital corridors the new A&E but Jeremy Hunt refuses cash to solve NHS winter crisis”.
It claimed Hunt had “arrogantly told staff they ‘knew what they were signing up for’”.
But the Department of Health said it was “misleading to paraphrase his remarks in this way, without reporting that he immediately went on to say that it was not fair to ask staff to face the pressures referred to year in year out”.
It complained to IPSO that the report represented a breach of the Editor’s Code of Practice under Clause 1 (accuracy).
The Mirror argued that it had accurately paraphrased Hunt’s reply to being asked whether he would apologise to “desperate nurses and paramedics”
The DoH also said it was inaccurate to say Hunt had refused to apologise. It said he had in fact stated: “I take responsibility for everything that happens in the NHS. I apologise to patients when we haven’t delivered the care that we should”.
IPSO’s ruling said: “The newspaper said that the article’s reference to Mr Hunt refusing to apologise was immediately followed by the claim that he had told staff they knew what they were signing up for.
“It said when these two sentences were read in conjunction, it was clear that Mr Hunt was refusing to apologise to staff, on the basis that they had signed up for the conditions, and should expect it.
“It was therefore not a distortion that the front page did not say in terms to whom Mr Hunt had apologised. In any event, it said that the article on the inside page fully explained what he had said.”
IPSO upheld the DoH’s complaint, saying both elements of the story which had been complained about were “distortions” of Hunt’s comments.
The press regulator said: “These claims about Mr Hunt’s comments were used as the basis for personal criticism of his position, and this was therefore a significant and prominent failure to take care not to publish distorted comment.”
The newspaper had previously offered to publish a clarification on page two acknowledging that it had paraphrased Hunt’s comments and publishing his direct quotes.
However the Department of Health declined the offer, saying it wanted to see an apology on its front page, and IPSO later agreed page two would be “insufficient” and that the Mirror’s wording was “inadequate”.
But IPSO did not demand an apology from the newspaper, saying comments made by a senior politician on a political issue would “inevitably be subject to close scrutiny and criticism”.
The regulator ordered the Mirror to publish an adjudication online and in print on page five or further forward, with a front page reference in the same font size as the original sub-headline of the splash.
The adjudication was published yesterday with the front page headline: “IPSO upholds Department of Health complaint against Mirror.”