OUR hospitals have faced pressures over the last year like no other as NHS staff work hard dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.

As your local paper, we have been reporting what is happening inside our local hospitals and questioning the trust which runs them.

At a time like this, providing factual, accurate reports on what is happening is vital so that you, the public, are kept informed. It is important now, more than ever, that information relating to our hospitals is made public, even if it is sometimes difficult to hear.

When we publish articles about our hospital, we often get asked questions by our readers ranging from why we are being critical of the hospital during this difficult time, to why figures appear to be out of date.

Here, we answer all your frequently asked questions about articles on the NHS.

Why are you always critical of the hospital?

We do not include our own opinion in news articles and are therefore not critical.

Articles about the hospital provide figures, facts and sometimes comments from hospital staff or others, but we do not give our own opinion.

If you believe that the information reported in the article warrants criticism of the hospital, then that is your opinion, not ours. We simply give you the facts to allow you to form your own opinion.

Take for example the article published at the weekend reporting that the trust which runs Basingstoke hospital had 144 patients contract Covid inside the hospital in December.

We did not make any suggestion that this was the fault of the hospital, or alternatively, that it was down to bad luck. We simply gave you the facts. Any opinion you have formed on these facts is your own.

Sometimes we do write opinion pieces, but this will be clearly identified as an opinion rather than news article.

At the start of the pandemic in March 2020, we launched our campaign - Support Our Guardian Angels - to raise money for frontline staff at Hampshire Hospitals. 

Over the course of the last twelve months, our newspaper has highlighted other fundraising campaigns for the hospital and NHS more widely.

Basingstoke Gazette:

Why do you never publish positive stories about the hospital?

Sometimes we do. We welcome positive news stories about the hospital.

However, it is often the case that positive stories don’t attract the same high volume of hits that negative news does.

This is out of our control, because you decide what to read, but it does mean that negative news often ends up reaching more people than the positive news does.

Often, we rely on you, or the hospital, to let us know about positive news from the hospital. So please do get in touch if you think there is some good news we have missed.

The hospital has its own communications department which liaises with the media. Sometimes, we approach them with story suggestions.

Recently we asked if we could interview someone in charge of a Covid ward at Basingstoke hospital to find out more about the challenges faced by NHS staff and the pressure they are under. Unfortunately, this was refused by the communications team.

Over the past twelve months, we have published numerous positive articles about successes at the hospital as well as giving a platform for the Trust to express areas for concern.

Basingstoke Gazette:

For example, in November the chief executive's message about the threat of the second wave was published on our front page. 

Why are the figures often out-of-date on hospital articles?

Many of the articles we publish about the hospital come from papers published by Hampshire Hospitals Foundation Trust on its website.

Often, these include figures from the month prior to the meeting, meaning that by the time we see them, they appear to be out-of-date.

However, they are often the most up-to-date figures available to us.

We do frequently ask for more recent figures from the trust and will share these with you if the communications team gives them to us.

Where do you find articles about the hospital?

As already said, many of the articles we publish come from papers published by HHFT.

The trust decides what is published in these papers and includes important information to share with its governors and board of directors.

We then spend time going through these papers (which are often hundreds of pages long) to find relevant information which is of interest to you, our readers.

We understand that sometimes these articles can be difficult to read, particularly when they refer to Covid deaths and cases.

However, it is important that this information is shared with the public so that you are informed during the pandemic and so the hospital is open and transparent about what is happening. This is why it publishes this information.

Sometimes stories come from members of the public or from staff whistleblowing about issues within the hospital. We take these seriously but always ask questions, carry out our own research and give the hospital a chance to respond.  We will always make it clear if information is a fact or someone’s opinion or accusation.

Other articles come from the communications department at the hospital or from questions we have asked.

Contrary to popular belief, we cannot publish anything we want and are bound by a legal responsibility to ensure that everything we publish meets strict journalism ethics and laws.

All our journalists have received legal training.

Why are you taking up the time of frontline workers dealing with a pandemic by asking questions?

Just as it is our job to ask questions, the hospital has a communications team whose job it is to answer them.

The members of the communications team are not frontline staff looking after patients during the pandemic. Their job is to provide communications, including liaising with the media.

Rightfully, the media can question the NHS which is how you hear about important news which otherwise may never be reported.