Formal complaint over scaremongering council press release

I have filed a complaint to the District Auditor after a disgraceful official council press release made the false claim that the Accident and Emergency Unit at Charing Cross Hospital was threatened. The Labour Party can tell as many lies as they like in their own press releases. Living in a free society gives them that right and that make abundant use of it. But statements they make via the Council’s website – propaganda at the Council Taxpayer’s expense – are supposed to be within the restrictions of the Local Authority Publicity Code. This includes requirements for accuracy and impartiality.

The minutes of the Council’s own Health, Adult Social Care and Social Inclusion Policy and Accountability Committee inform us that Steve McManus  the Chief Operating Officer of the Imperial College Healthcare Trust “stated that there were no plans to close the A&E department at Charing Cross Hospital”.

That would make pretty clear that the assertion in the Council press release was wrong. But I checked that the minutes were accepted as accurate. Kayode Adewumi, the Council’s Head of Governance and Scrutiny assured me they were. Might Mr McManus have misspoken?

“Steve McManus’ comment is absolutely correct,” confirmed a spokesman for the NHS.

Unless the Council is accusing him of ignorance of NHS plans or of accusing him of lying I fail to see how his comments allow the claim in the Councils press release that the A&E is “threatened” to be sustained.

The Council’s chief executive Nigel Pallace responds:

“Whilst the minutes do indeed record those remarks by Mr McMannus, it nevertheless remains the case that the nature of services to be provided in future at Charing Cross remains uncertain and subject to further decision, ultimately by government.  As such I cannot agree that there can be no possible threat to the current level of service or range of emergency care.  Neither did the press release allege that the A&E was to close.”

Come off it, Nigel.

The press release was a disgraceful piece of dishonest, partisan scaremongering. The reference to “threatened” gave – and was intended to give – the impression that the A&E might close. Of course any A&E – in Charing Cross or elsewhere – will not be exactly the same in 10 or 20 years time. Anymore that it is the same now as it was 10 or 20 years ago. Is that really all the Council’s press release intended to convey?

What political pressure were council staff – specifically the press officer Louise Raisey – put under to push this poison?

I have submitted the following Freedom of Information request in an attempt to find out:

“Please supply any emails between Louise Raisey and Cabinet Members regarding this press release.
http://www.lbhf.gov.uk/Directory/News/Hospital_inspector_says_St_Marys_is_inadequate_while_praising_threatened_Charing_Cross.asp#3
Best wishes,
Harry”

The plot thickens and the smell grows…

 

4 thoughts on “Formal complaint over scaremongering council press release

    • After Mid Staffs, I thought they already had – with the elderly as their target. 1000+ deaths amounting to manslaughter by neglect wasn’t enough for Andy Burnham to resign, though.

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