The aftermath of the riots continued to dominate the national media at the expense of everything else, including health, but then August is traditionally a quiet month for the NHS.
There were few reports of last week’s troubles impacting on the NHS, although the Daily Telegraph reported that a nurse trying to reach her night shift in Croydon was carjacked by looters, who stole the contents of her handbag.
The communications office at Birmingham Children’s Hospital took calls from journalists as far away as Australia after the Daily Star ran a story claiming nurses had “formed a human shield around a critically ill baby… while looters went on the rampage nearby”. However, the trust and local reporters questioned whether the event had actually occurred.
The left of centre papers jumped on Department of Health figures released on Friday showing the number of accident and emergency patients waiting more than four hours had “doubled” in the past year – a statistic they blamed on the “abolition” of the 98 per cent target. The story was absent from the right wing press.
The Guardian, Mirror and Independent based their reports on the number of patients waiting more than four hours having risen from 1.5 per cent in April to June 2010 to 3 per cent for the same quarter this year.
But none made it clear that the 97 per cent of patients being dealt with inside four hours was still higher than the relaxed target of 95 per cent, which was introduced last June and subsequently rebranded as a quality indicator.
In other news, the Sunday Telegraph reported that an increasing number of mothers were “paying to opt out of the NHS for home birth”. The story focused on a mother who had paid £3,000 for a private midwife – one of more than 1,000 women who took the same decision last year.