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Scandalising the NHS- the construction of healthcare and deviance in the BBC and ITV coverage of the Mid Staffordshire hospital scandal

Eilenberg, J. (2017). Scandalising the NHS- the construction of healthcare and deviance in the BBC and ITV coverage of the Mid Staffordshire hospital scandal. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


In this study, I examine how the BBC and ITV News at Ten covered the Mid Staffordshire hospital scandal between 17 March 2009 and 17 March 2014. The analysis focuses on the construction of healthcare and deviance in TV health news storytelling, and the institutional and individual social actors involved in the process. The failings themselves included the mistreatment and sometimes death of hundreds of patients at a local hospital in Stafford. These events led to an institutional scandal, where not only the local institution but the entire NHS, its culture and its leadership were identified as deviant folk devils.

Drawing on approaches from sociology, criminology, journalism and media studies, I analyse the case study from a social constructivist perspective. The theoretical and conceptual framework includes storytelling, discourse, encoding and scandal, whilst the methodology combines analyses of TV news content with interviews with BBC and ITV news workers. Thereby, I engage with the reports themselves, the process of encoding them, and the power relations involved.

The production of TV health news was negotiated between health and political specialists, who used different narrative strategies, such as interviews, to make the storytelling engaging. As for the TV coverage of the Mid Staffordshire hospital scandal, it went through four different phases: activations, reactions, amplification and justice. Each phase had its characteristics in terms of social actors and scandal processes, which served to drive the storytelling forward until the narrative became fixed by 2014. As such, I found that the process of scandalising the NHS reflects deeper and ongoing social changes regarding the media’s construction of powerful institutions and individuals as well as the wider issue of trust in authorities.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Departments: School of Arts & Social Sciences > Sociology
Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses > School of Arts and Social Sciences Doctoral Theses
[img] Text - Accepted Version
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