This activity is taken from my PhD dissertation, which focuses on the welfare state in the UK between 2008 and 2015. In particular, this activity deals with the representation of the National Health Service in British newspapers.
Students are asked to analyse the way seven articles reported on a news item – a patient being placed in a storage room due to lack of space on a ward.
The teacher may enter the students’ answers in a table as they make their way into the analysis, and provide additional information on the newspapers to guide the students. The table may consist of 7 lines, on for each article, and a number of columns focusing on the following elements (depending on what students come up with): way the patient is referred to, description of the room, pictures, people quoted, etc…
My conclusions based on this analysis were as follows. These stories exemplify four ways of representing this news item, and which are characteristic of the newspapers they appeared in:
- The BBC article is short and refers readers to other media. It doesn’t provide an interpretation of the incident, and offers a rather factual presentation of the event. So does the Epping Forest Guardian. These representations treat the story as an isolated incident.
- The Daily Mirror, as a left-wing tabloid, dramatizes the event and blames it on austerity. The piece also insists on staff suffering. Such a reading of the story therefore feeds into the anti-austerity, pro-working class stance of the Mirror.
- The Telegraph, as a right-wing reference newspaper, as well local newspaper Your Harlow, dramatize the event and insist on the way the government analysed it. They blame the difficulties of the NHS on the population, such a reading can therefore be called elitist.
- Finally, the Mail Online (tabloid) dramatizes the event without providing any structural explanation to the case. The article only uses set phrases, with little explanatory value. This is in-keeping with the sensationalist style of the mirror. One could also say that mentioning problems without offering explanations for them fuels general, indiscriminate distrust in institutions.
One NHS story, seven articles
1) Read the following articles and recap the information they give about the English health service.
2) Doing micro-reading, spot all the differences between the articles and sort them in a table. Do not forget to analyse the pictures and their captions.
3) Analyze the differences that you have spotted : What does it tell you about the reading which each medium is making of the story ?
4) What can you conclude as to the editorial line of each of the newspapers ? Does your analysis fit with what you might know about them ?
ARTICLE 1 – Harlow’s Princess Alexandra hospital apologises for store room bed, BBC News, 14 January 2015
A man who was treated in a hospital storage room because of an “unprecedented number of emergency patients”, has received an apology. Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow, Essex, said the side room was being used temporarily as extra bed space. Michael Steel, 63, told the Mirror newspaper he stayed in a bed in the store room for three days.
“We fully accept that this arrangement was far from ideal,” a hospital spokeswoman said. “It did, however, allow us to carry on treating emergency patients. “We apologise unreservedly to Mr Steel and his family and would be happy to meet him to explain in more detail the reasons behind this decision.”
Senior hospital staff carried out a “comprehensive” risk assessment of the room before Mr Steel, a “low-risk” patient, was transferred there, the spokeswoman added.
Peter Blackman, a health campaigner based in Essex, said the hospital had done “the best it possibly could”. “It was much better that he was in a proper bed, in a room, rather than left in an ambulance, or on a trolley, or in a corridor,” he said. “I applaud their creativity in finding somewhere they could put a proper bed.”
The BBC was unable to get a comment from Mr Steel.
A grandfather spent nearly three days in a cramped hospital stock room because no space was available on a ward. Michael Steel, 63, right, was squeezed into a storage area filled with medical supplies and lit by a glaring fluorescent strip light. He struggled to sleep because of constant interruptions as staff came in to grab equipment or move his bed to reach a drugs cupboard. Mr Steel, who was being treated for an inflamed liver, also claimed other patients were left to go hungry by overstretched nurses. He helped feed and comfort some, including one severely ill man who died as he held his hand.
‘It beggars belief that something like this can happen in this day and age – people don’t believe it when I tell them,’ he said.
The retired salesman was admitted to Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow, Essex, twice last month. The second time he was moved to the 12ft by 10ft stock room and given intravenous antibiotics.
The hospital trust has apologised to Mr Steel, saying it was struggling with an ‘unprecedented number of emergency patients’. It rejected the hungry patient claims.
Michael Steel, 63, was placed into a storage room filled with medical supplies and lit by a fluorescent strip light at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow, Essex. He was unable to sleep due to constant interruptions as staff retrieved equipment.Mr Osborne said his treatment was a “matter of regret”. “Every time a patient doesn’t get the treatment that they deserve, that’s a matter of regret. “It is a matter of regret to me, it is a matter of regret to every member of the Government,” he told Good Morning Britain. “There are more nurses, more doctors, but the truth is there are more than a million more people going to A&E. We’ve got to address why people aren’t going to doctors surgeries, why they’re not necessarily phoning the helplines that are available,” he said.Mr Steel, who was being treated for an inflamed liver, said other patients were left hungry by overstretched nurses. “It beggars belief that something like this can happen in this day and age – people don’t believe it when I tell them,” he said.The hospital trust has apologised to Mr Steel, saying it was struggling with an “unprecedented number of emergency patients”. It rejected the hungry patient claims.
The NHS has been under increasing pressure in recent months, but for Michael Steel the consequences were particularly extreme. A lack of space meant his bed was moved to a stock room and left there for three days at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow.
Mr Steel told Today: “I went back into hospital for a liver complaint and after three days …they woke me up in the middle of the night and moved me to what I thought was another room.” “As the day wore on and it got light I realised I was basically in a cupboard.” “The nurses explained that they were so short of bed-space that they had put me in there for the time being.”
ARTICLE 5 – Harlow patient who was ‘kept in store cupboard’ becomes national headline, Your Harlow, 15 January 2015
IT SEEMS that a day doesn’t go by without a story about the health service in Harlow.
This week, the Daily Mirror highlighted the plight of Harlow resident, Michael Steel, 63, who was placed into a storage room filled with medical supplies and lit by a fluorescent strip light at Princess Alexandra Hospital.
Mr Steel told the Mirror that he was unable to sleep due to constant interruptions as staff retrieved equipment. The story has been covered on other national newspapers as well as on Television this morning.
Even the chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne has commented on the situation. He told Good Morning Britain: “Every member of the Government regrets the treatment of a grandfather who spent three days in a hospital stock room because there was no space on a ward.”
“There are more nurses, more doctors, but the truth is there are more than a million more people going to A&E. We’ve got to address why people aren’t going to doctors surgeries, why they’re not necessarily phoning the helplines that are available,” he said.
Mr Steel, who was being treated for an inflamed liver, said other patients were left hungry by overstretched nurses. “It beggars belief that something like this can happen in this day and age – people don’t believe it when I tell them,” he said.
The hospital trust has apologised to Mr Steel, saying it was struggling with an “unprecedented number of emergency patients”.
It rejected the hungry patient claims.
ARTICLE 6 – NHS in crisis: George Osborne ‘regrets’ patient forced to sleep in CUPBOARD for three days, The Daily Mirror, 15 janvier 2015
George Osborne today said he “regretted” the treatment of an NHS patient who was left to sleep in a cramped cupboard for three days.
The Mirror revealed this week how Michael Steel, 63, was shunted into the store room and surrounded by medical supplies while being treated for an inflamed liver. The dad-of-two told how he kept being disturbed and was wheeled in and out while staff tried to reach drugs from a fridge in the 12ft by 10ft room.
The Tory Chancellor was today quizzed about the case on live TV, and admitted: “Every time a patient doesn’t get the treatment that they deserve, that’s a matter of regret. “It is a matter of regret to me, it is a matter of regret to every member of the Government.” But Mr Osborne blamed patients attending accident and emergency units for putting extra pressure on the health service.
College of Emergency Medicine president Dr Clifford Mann said this week that it was not patients’ fault because they were being sent to casualty by risk-averse call centre staff at the “absurd” NHS 111 help line.
But Mr Osborne insisted today: “The truth is … there are a lot more people going to A&E. “I think we need to make sure that people have all the information they need about where they need to go if they feel there is something wrong with and they’re not feeling well, and A&E is not always the answer for people.”
The Chancellor was confronted with the horrific details of Michael’s case when he appeared on ITV’s Good Morning Britain.
Michael had woken in a store room at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow, Essex, with his drip and table at his side, as staff dealt with “an unprecedented number of emergency patients”.
He blamed Government cuts for putting staff under pressure and said he hoped political leaders would be “shamed” into tackling the crisis engulfing the health service. “It shows how much the NHS is struggling. One nurse told me it was absolute chaos,” he said. “I initially thought I was in some kind of private room when I woke in the morning. Then I realised I was in the stock room. There were bottles, tablets and needles. “For three days I was in that room. I never had any peace – people were coming and going, even at night, so I could not sleep.” Mr Steel added one of the doctors asked: ‘what on earth are you doing in here?’ when he was surprised to find him in the store room.
Son Tom took video footage and pictures of the ordeal, including a snap of the eight-bed ward’s information board, where nurses listed his dad’s location as “stock room”. Graphic designer Tom, 24, said: “It was a shock to see dad like that, surrounded by the needles and razors. “The nurses were coming in and out all of the time to get the drugs. “Dad was so understanding, I don’t think other patients would have been so tolerant of their surroundings.”
The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust said it was a “period of extreme pressure” and apologised to Michael.
ARTICLE 7 – Man treated in Harlow’s Princess Alexandra Hospital cupboard for three days, Epping Forest Guardian, 16 January 2015
A hospital has apologised to a man who was treated in a cupboard for three days due to a shortage of beds. Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow, which serves Epping Forest, said the storage room was being used temporarily due to high demand.Michael Steel, 63, told the Mirror: “I initially thought I was in some kind of private room when I woke in the morning. “Then I realised I was in the stock room. There were bottles, tablets and needles.”A Princess Alexandra Hospital spokeswoman said a comprehensive risk assessment was undertaken and Mr Steel was considered “low risk”. She said: “We fully accept that this arrangement was far from ideal.” “It did, however, allow us to carry on treating emergency patients. “We apologise unreservedly to Mr Steel and his family and would be happy to meet him to explain in more detail the reasons behind this decision.”Last week accident and emergency faced an “unprecedented volume of acute patients”.The hospital had asked people not to attend the emergency department unless they have a life-threatening condition.