The reporter who helped expose the Mid Staffs NHS scandal has welcomed proposals that authorities pay more heed to local media’s watchdog role.
Former Express & Star reporter Shaun Lintern spent five years exposing the abuse and mistreatment suffered by patients at the hospital, which culminated in a public inquiry and last week’s Francis Report into the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.
Robert Francis QC said the trust had not “attached great significance to media reports” on the hospital – even though this can alert healthcare organisation to concerns “that are not otherwise known” and the depth of public feeling.
And he concluded that “it would be reasonable to expect those charged with oversight and regulatory roles in healthcare to monitor media reports about the organisations for which they have responsibility”.
Lintern, the only journalist to give evidence at the inquiry, told Press Gazette: “The story of Mid-Staffs is that there were plenty of warning signs – they were just missed by the system. And when they were missed, hundreds of people died unnecessarily.
“I’m really pleased to see he’s made a recommendation that NHS organisations should monitor local media reporting – that’s a vote of confidence in local newspaper reporting on hospital issues.”
He continued: “If there’s another reporter out there slaving away on a local hospital that’s performing badly and this recommendation’s enacted, maybe someone will see that and think we need to investigate this hospital, and they may catch the next Mid-Staffordshire. So if that recommendation helps to prevent that happening again, I’ll always be very proud to have got that recommendation.”
Lintern, who attended almost every session of the 139-day public inquiry, also revealed his concern that the national press is losing out on “major stories on how the NHS was failing”.
He said: “I remain to this day very disappointed that the national media didn’t devote more time to the inquiry, because I have an archive of stories that I wrote running to 130,000 words,” he said.
“I wonder whether it was because the inquiry was held in Staffordshire, whether that made a difference. I can’t explain why, I just remain disappointed that they didn’t.” More on p6-7.