Daily Express continues to vilify Britain’s paramedics
January 17, 2013, Press Dispensary. A war of words is being waged between the Daily Express and Britain's paramedics, over ambulance crew attendance when six-week-old Thomas Passant, of Bridgnorth, Shropshire, suffered heart problems.
On Saturday (January 12th) under the heading "RISKING A BABY'S LIFE FOR LUNCH" an article by 'Richard & Judy' vilified a West Midlands ambulance crew, claiming that "paramedics refused to interrupt their lunch break despite an emergency call for an ambulance to attend".
This ignored the truth that, in fact, baby Thomas was receiving paramedic treatment within minutes of the 999 call being made, and the fact that no ambulance crew refused to interrupt its break: that simply did not happen (see this press release for details).
A storm broke on Twitter, with Richard Madeley being harangued to the point where, on Monday evening, he acknowledged on Twitter that the story was "widely misreported" and that he was writing a follow-up piece. However, he did not apologise and has not now been seen on Twitter for three days.
Meanwhile – despite a torrent of comments under the online version of the article – the Express issued no correction or apology.
On the afternoon of Tuesday (January 15th), the College of Paramedics, which represents the professional interests of paramedics, issued its press release setting out the facts of the story and putting the paramedics' side. This release almost immediately 'went viral', receiving 12,000+ unique views in a matter of hours and becoming widely quoted on Twitter and even more quoted and 'Like'd by many thousands of Facebook users.
On Wednesday, the Express responded by not only closing the comments section under the online Richard and Judy page but removing all comments completely. Yet still the original story stood. And the storm on Facebook continued, unabated.
Then at lunchtime on Wednesday, the family of baby Thomas joined the Facebook debate in defence of paramedics. Matthew Passant, Thomas' father, posted:
"I'm the childs father who the article was about and let me tell you me and my partner have nothing but gratitude to the paramedics who attended to my son Thomas and the paramedics know this as we have spoken to them and their bosses personally." He also wrote "your paramedics, along with the doctors and nurses and everyone else on the way is the reason why our son is still alive and recovering every day."
And Thomas' aunt, Kate Passant, posted:
"We as a family were shocked to read this article and just want to say thankyou to the paramedics who attended. The paramedics that attended him did an amazing job and helped save his life."
The response from the Express? Repentance? A correction? An apology?
Not a bit of it. Instead, the Express removed the Richard and Judy piece altogether on Thursday (today), as if it had never existed.
But meanwhile, a strangely similar piece by Anne Widdecombe survives on the Express website, repeating the same allegations. Anne Widdecombe states:
"A BABY of eight weeks is facing possible disability for life as a result of an ambulance crew finishing its break before going on a 999 call", and "Amazingly West Midlands Ambulance Service is completely unrepentant", and "when it comes to putting sandwiches before a dying baby and then defending such action as reasonable, Britain has sunk to a new depth", and "lunch comes first and a dying baby second” and “Nero fiddling while Rome burned is the image which comes to mind".
Chair of the College of Paramedics Council and Consultant Paramedic, Professor Andy Newton, said:
"The story of baby Thomas Passant continues to be misreported in a way that disparages the very hard-working paramedics who were on duty that day and who are entirely innocent of the allegations made against them.
"We understand the level of public outcry against these stories. The British public is 100% behind our country’s paramedics who, every day, go beyond the call of duty in very traumatic circumstances and always put the interests of their patients before anything else."
The College of Paramedics has asked that Mr Madeley apologise unequivocally to ambulance staff and donate any fee received to a national ambulance service charity. So far no apology or offer of donation has been forthcoming.
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Notes for editors
1. The College of Paramedics is the professional body for UK paramedics. Formed in 2002, originally as the British Paramedic Association it represents the professional interests of paramedics and student paramedics. It is not a trade union.
2. There are more than 18,000 paramedics registered in the UK with the Health and Care Professions Council (http://www.hcpc-uk.org)
3. Paramedics are health professions are regulated by law and form one of the Allied Health Professions (as defined by the Department of Health). Although not directly representing other non-registered ambulance service clinical staff, the College is equally concerned for other frontline emergency ambulance staff, such as ambulance technicians and emergency care assistants, who routinely work under the leadership of paramedics.
4. West Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust has issued a number of statements in relation to this article and associated local press, which can be found at: http://officialwmas.posterous.com/
For further information, please contact:
David Davis, College of Paramedics
Tel: 01278 427212