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Social care homes: what the media forget to tell us

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 31 August 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d5391
  1. Graham Mulley, emeritus professor of elderly care, University of Leeds
  1. G.mulley{at}

“It’s the BBC: they want help with an exposé of nursing homes.” My secretary transferred the call. The programme producer told me that a care home employee had reported that a culture of poor quality care was going unchecked. The plan was for a journalist to apply for work experience and surreptitiously film examples of inadequate care. Would I consider being a consultant adviser, providing guidance on what constituted good practice?

I had just returned from doing a teaching round in an excellent care home, where nurses and care assistants provided first rate care—despite low wages and at times inadequate staffing levels. I knew how the staff were buffeted by relentless negative media stories, and how another undercover report might demoralise diligent workers. I declined to help, and disingenuously asked why they did not consider making a truly original programme, one which celebrated all the excellent work that is taking place in many care homes. There was a long silence.

Media coverage of care homes is rarely positive. Newspaper stories that make the front page are usually about financial aspects—for example, homes going into administration, or fees …

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