The answer is Sue Reid, lazy disgrace of a Daily Mail hack, who in October 2007 offered money and free accommodation in her Fulham flat to Polish people - provided they'd come to London in their Polish registered car and break traffic laws so she could take pictures for a story about how Polish people come to Britain and break the law in their Polish registered cars. In August this year, she compared the number of jobseekers in some areas in a one month period with the number of migrants in these areas over a whole year to make it look like there were more migrants competing for work in those areas than there actually were. Class act.
To her, the baby in the picture represents a strain on your NHS; providing of course the baby's mum was born abroad. And I'm sure Sue Reid would assume she was.
'Mapping out the strain on your NHS: 243 sick babies treated in one London hospital ward.... and just 18 mothers come from Britain' is as horrific an article as it sounds. Uponnothing has covered this in 'Paul Dacre must die', and I can see why he's so angry about it. Notice how it talks about your NHS. It can't be the 'foreign' mothers' NHS. Absolutely none of them are taxpaying UK citizens.
This has to be one of the laziest, most xenophobic and underhanded scaremongering articles I have ever read. And I regularly read the Daily Mail, so that really is saying something. The story, in a nutshell, is this: on the wall of a children's ward in Chelsea and Westminster Hospital is a map that mothers can put a sticker on to show where they were born. There are lots of stickers on countries across the world, but not very many on the UK. That's it. That's the story. The rest is a bunch of scaremongering stastrickery based on that weak, weak piece of evidence.
Now, if you or I saw that map, we might realise that the whole bloody point of it is to show how many different places the mothers were born so the hospital can show off about how far and wide the parents they have helped are spread. We might realise that women born in the UK are less likely to add a sticker, since they might think it's not interesting. We even, if we thought about it hard, might realise that it isn't really very possible to add a lot of stickers to the UK on a world map since the UK will be very, very small, adding too many will make them fall off - we'd at least realise that seeing the UK already covered in dots would make someone less likely to add another.
Sue Reid, though, would look at it and think, 'Yes! Immigration scare story!' and start rubbing her hands (and to be honest, there's probably not very much that wouldn't make her do that). There is some pretty skilful scene setting before we get to the meat of the article, which is hung entirely from the unsubstantiated assertion of an anonymous source.
She said: 'Almost every cot and incubator at this wonderful unit was occupied by a baby with a foreign mother. Interpreters were on hand to make sure the mothers understood the doctors.The 'almost every cot and incubator' bit is almost certainly a massive, massive exaggeration (this claim is not substantiated anywhere in the article with any actual figures from the actual hospital - not very much is). But at least the 'London-born mother' says that babies' lives being saved is a good thing. Only someone incredibly heartless, definitely xenophobic and perhaps a little bit racist would follow this up with a 'but', right? I'm sorry to have to say, I missed a bit off the end of that quote there:
'Babies' lives are being saved and that is a good thing.
Yet this seemed like a free-for-all.Check out the weasel word 'seemed' - to make this a statement of perception rather than fact. The article then actually lambasts doctors for treating children if their parents have been in the UK for less than a year, and - in a completely unsubstantiated and inexpertly manufactured connection - indirectly brands the mothers on the Chelsea and Westminster map health tourists. And that's before it weaves in alarmist immigration stats to prove something or other.
This story really is a piece of work. For instance, Sue Reid helpfully points out that:
Even in Chelsea (an area less associated with immigration) the figure [of children born to mothers born overseas] is 67 percent, according to a recent Government report.What she doesn't point out is that Chelsea and Westminster mainly serves seven areas of London - four of which have a lower than 67 per cent level of mothers born overseas. She also doesn't substantiate the claim about low immigration in Chelsea, only making a claim that it's 'less associated' with immigration. Perhaps because Chelsea is 'more associated' with rich people, and rich people can't be born overseas.
But the central claim of the article - that a disproportionate number of mothers of children treated in Chelsea and Westminster Hospital were born overseas (and that this is evidence of widespread 'health tourism') - is never actually substantiated.
The only piece of evidence is a map that has no indication of how old it is, no indication of the proportion of mothers who add a sticker, and absolutely no indication at all of how many of those mothers would have been in the UK for less than a year. We don't even know that '243 sick babies [were] treated' - there were probably hundreds more in the time this map has been on the wall, most of whom never placed a dot on it. The lazy trickery of tying this in with 'health tourism' is astounding. We even have vast swathes of the article devoted to how many people have 'settled' in the UK without pointing out that these people will mostly be British citizens now anyway. Many of these mothers will be taxpaying UK citizens, and the NHS belongs to 'them' as much as it does 'us'.
Reid could have looked at the Chelsea and Westminster website and put her 225 foreign mothers in perspective:
We are one of London’s largest providers of children’s services, caring for more than 8,000 children as inpatients and more than 30,000 as outpatients every year. More than 30,000 children are treated in our children’s emergency care department every year.Actually, it's probably lucky she didn't. She probably would have extrapolated percentages and pretended that tens of thousands of foreign children were treated while only 18 of them had British born mothers. And the tens of thousands were health tourists.
But the worst thing about this article is that I suspect that the 'London-born' mother is either made up, someone who Sue Reid knows personally, or is Sue Reid herself. Chelsea and Westminster is Sue Reid's local hospital. This article looks to me much more like Reid saw the poster herself and spun a spurious story out of it.
She claims to have received the photo of the poster in the summer, and we only get the story now. Did Reid just not bother researching by asking the hospital for figures (an FoI request takes three weeks), or did she do that and get answers she didn't like?
I have first hand knowledge of this hospital. I've been treated there myself, visited several family members there, including children. Some of my family were actually born there. I sorely hope that nobody close to Reid required treatment in hospital here - and I wouldn't blame her for keeping that to herself if anyone did.
That doesn't change the fact that this whole article is an absolute disgrace of embarrassingly bad journalism, based on smoke-and-mirrors and bogeymen. Or rather, bogeychildren.
Don't forget to check out Angry Mob.
**UPDATE** Since I wrote this, the scare story has almost been ruined with a statement from the hospital that has naturally been stuffed to the bottom of the story where few readers will reah. Those who do might well assume the statement isn't true:
The hospital also issued the following statement: 'Chelsea and Westminster Hospital is a specialist referral centre and cares for patients of many different backgrounds, reflecting London’s very diverse population.550 babies in one year were treated in this ward, but only 243 over a period of 4 years added dots to the map. That's such a scientific way of measuring things, Sue Reid should get a job at NASA.
'Of the 550 babies admitted to our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) every year, a very small number of these are overseas patients. In 2009, there have been just two overseas admissions.
'The map was placed in the NICU nearly four years ago to provide the families of the babies we care for, as well as staff, with an opportunity to indicate their background if they wished. It is not an indication of country of residence or citizenship.
'It was intended to illustrate the diversity of staff working on the unit and the families of the babies we care for, to encourage everyone to reflect on different cultures, in a fun and informal way.
'Chelsea and Westminster Hospital’s NICU provides intensive care, high dependency and special care facilities for babies and is a specialist referral centre for neonatal surgery.'
**UPDATE UPDATE** I'm about to go away for the weekend, so I'll be turning comment moderation on until I get back. Do post your comments though, and I'll publish them on Monday.