Observations Medicine and the Media

Why are the media so soft on Circle?

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e5351 (Published 08 August 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e5351
  1. Nigel Hawkes, freelance journalist, London
  1. nigel.hawkes1{at}btinternet.com

Recent coverage has uncritically praised Hinchingbrooke, the first privately managed NHS hospital, but was it more a public relations coup than reality, asks Nigel Hawkes, as the company seeks to avoid insolvency

Journalists who specialise in biotechnology quickly learn to recognise “good news flow”—the optimistic press releases from companies that are burning money and need somehow to keep their investors happy. Lacking dividends to distribute, they turn instead to distributing news about the progress they are making, thereby sustaining the hope of dividends to come. Reading good news flow should be met with a raised eyebrow and the question, “Why are they telling me this?”

Little of this scepticism was in evidence last week, when Circle, a company whose own chief executive, Ali Parsa, has compared it to a high tech start-up, pulled off a splendid media coup. In February Circle took over the management of Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire, as the first private company to run an NHS hospital.1 Last week’s stories, in the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail, and in prize spots on the BBC …

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