Rantzen sticks by her hospital story

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The Independent Online
Esther Rantzen, the television presenter and consumer rights campaigner, last night defended a controversial programme after it was criticised by watchdogs for being inaccurate.

The programme, part of the series The Rantzen Report, was broadcast in 1996 and claimed that the British Home and Hospital for Incurables (BHHI), in south London was neglecting one of its most severely handicapped patients.

Ms Rantzen said the programme, which examined the plight of Ian Parker, the disabled patient, had resulted in his being moved to another establishment. Her comments come after it was reported that the Broadcasting Standards Commission (BSC) had said the programme was "inaccurate, misleading and unfair".

Concern about the programme was first raised by John Ware, a reporter for the BBC's Panorama programme, who wrote that the programme had twisted the facts.

Ms Rantzen, who was cleared following an internal BBC inquiry into the programme, last night insisted that her investigation into the hospital was justified.

"As far as I am concerned, I am extremely happy with the programme. The young man who was featured in it, Ian Parker, has now been transferred to a different hospital and his health has enormously improved," she said. "That was the object his mother was intending and achieved by being interviewed for the programme."

"I was astonished by a report today that the BSC had reached these findings because as far as I am aware they have not yet been published."

A report in Sunday newspaper yesterday said the BSC had ruled that Ms Rantzen and her team were rather less than meticulous. It said the programme had wrongly claimed that Mr Parker had not been taken to a fete and said more investigation of the facts would have avoided the possibility of a misleading picture of events.

The report also stated that the commission attacked the use of a secret camera inside the hospital saying it was not justified and the programme should have "researched the story more thoroughly".

A spokesman for the BBC said that the programme had contained some minor errors which had involved a degree of unfairness, but that the programme makers had drawn reasonable conclusions from the evidence and that their journalistic integrity was not in doubt: "... the fundamental truth of the programme was not challenged," he said.