Bashing the NHS is lazy journalism and undermines morale

AN investigation is underway after a baby in a neonatal intensive care unit died from an infection believed to have been contracted as a result of a contaminated drip. More than a dozen other premature babies remain in a critical condition. It’s a tragic situation, and one which calls for an urgent investigation.

An instant recall notice has been issued by ITH Pharma, the company responsible for issuing the suspect batch of feed, but it isn’t in their direction that the media fingers are pointing.

‘Newborn Dies As NHS Drops Poison 15 Babies,’ says Sky News.

‘Baby dies after being put on contaminated drop at NHS hospital,’ echoes the Metro.

‘15 babies poisoned by NHS drips,’ the Telegraph claims, in what is now becoming a familiar refrain.

Many premature babies receive nutrients in the form of Parenteral Nutrition: a liquid feed delivered intravenously. It’s a life-saving fluid produced by various private companies, including ITH Pharma, whose clients include several NHS trusts. In a statement on the ITH Pharma website, managing director Karen Hamling says she is “deeply saddened” by the situation. “We will be doing everything we can to co-operate with the regulators, the MHRA, to ensure that all patients receive the highest quality products possible,” she explains, giving her statement both “as a mother [and] as a pharmacist”.

There seems little doubt that the contaminated feed came from ITH Pharma, so why do the headlines above point the finger so firmly at the NHS?

Because it’s easy.

NHS bashing is lazy journalism: nothing more, nothing less. This week’s tragic news has nothing to do with the NHS – they are simply the middle-men, delivering a product they couldn’t possibly know was contaminated, and with tragic consequences. Of course there are issues with the way the NHS is run: there are issues with the way every public sector organisation is run, just as there are issues with the way private sector organisations are run (you only have to look at the banking industry to see that…). But they don’t deserve this constant denigration. The majority of medics working within the NHS are hard working, dedicated professionals who want nothing more than to give the best possible care to their patients. Sensationalist headlines do nothing for public confidence: they will simply chip away at morale in the NHS until the tabloids’ prophecies come true. It’s time to stop criticising and start looking at what the NHS is doing right, because without them, those babies wouldn’t be here at all. 

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Clare Mackintosh

Written by Clare Mackintosh

Clare Mackintosh is a freelance feature-writer, columnist and crime novelist, and a former Police Inspector. Follow her on Twitter @claremackint0sh or read her blog at

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