BBC defends Panorama show that used Labour activists to criticise lack of PPE

The BBC has defended a Panorama programme which used Labour activists to criticise the Government’s “scandalous” PPE provision to the NHS.

The flagship current affairs programme featured doctors and nurses complaining about the inadequate supply of personal protective equipment, but failed to mention their political allegiances.

Dr Sonia Adesara spoke of PPE shortages and said there was widespread concern that health workers will die from the covid-19 virus. The programme did not explain that she is a Labour activist who has shared a platform with Jeremy Corbyn and in 2018 stood unsuccessfully for selection to represent Labour in Boris Johnson’s seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip.

Another doctor, Irial Eno, daughter of the musician Brian Eno,  is a member of Docs Not Cops, which campaigns for free healthcare for migrants and works in solidarity with Together Against Prevent, a group “challenging the government’s Islamophobia in targeting all Muslims as potential terrorists”.

The links were highlighted by the Guido Fawkes website. In response, the BBC suggested that some NHS Trusts “have discouraged health care workers from discussing the lack of PPE, so it is perhaps not surprising that those willing to speak out are more involved with campaigning around the NHS”.

Other contributors included Dr Abhi Mantgani, a Labour-supporting GP from the Wirral who has posted on social media about the need to replace the Tory administration with a national unity caretaker government; and Dr Asif Munaf, an A&E doctor who has tweeted that “quite simply the Government have blood on their hands”.

Libby Nolan, a South Wales nurse featured in the programme, was correctly described as a union representative. On her Twitter biography she calls herself a “nurse and constant agitator”, and is a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn.

Only one contributor, Prof John Ashton, was labelled as a “long-standing critic of the Government”. The public health expert attacked the “breathtaking” lack of PPE stockpiling and said NHS workers and care workers were being made to work in unsafe conditions.

He said of the Government: “They failed to get a grip, they took advice from too narrow a range of people, and when things continued to escalate out of control they started to spin the story to make out that actually they’d been following the science and everything they did made perfect sense. I think it’s disgraceful.”

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, criticised the Panorama report after it aired on Monday night. He said: “I’m not sure they were a fair and objective journalistic assessment of the situation but what we do have is constant focus on the realities of getting PPE to the frontline.”

He said the Government has “been moving heaven and earth” to get sufficient PPE to the frontline in a “mammoth effort”. Defending the show, the BBC said: “Monday night’s Panorama was a rigorous, properly sourced investigation into the procurement and supply of PPE, which posed serious questions for the Government. It also included contributions from health professionals about their frontline experience.

“The programme spoke to a range of interviewees, including public health policy experts, and those involved in the supply of PPE. Where it was relevant, we indicated that they had been vocally critical of the Government.

“Some of those interviewed are members of a political party and some are not. We believe that if the doctors featured in Panorama feel their lives are at risk due to lack of proper PPE it is valid, and indeed in the public interest, for them to reflect on that experience, regardless of the political views they may or may not hold.”

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