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Sick and Tired

Adjudication Summaries (issued 6 February 2001):

The Broadcasting Standards Commission has upheld a complaint of unjust and unfair treatment by Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Trust and the Institute of Child Health ('GOSH') about Panorama: Sick and Tired, broadcast by BBC1 on 8 and 11 November 1999.

Panorama featured GOSH's treatment of children with chronic fatigue syndrome. GOSH complained that they had been treated unjustly or unfairly in the programme.

The Commission found no unfairness in the programme's reporting of GOSH's involvement in court proceedings concerning their care of a child, or the status of a former GOSH consultant.

However, the Commission did find unfairness in that Panorama contained no reflection that GOSH's rehabilitative approach was generally employed as a treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome. It also found unfairness in the programme's suggestion that GOSH's treatment of children with chronic fatigue syndrome was potentially detrimental, without seeking any response from GOSH, or referring to GOSH's success rates.

Accordingly, the complaint was upheld.


The Broadcasting Standards Commission has upheld a complaint of unjust and unfair treatment by Dr Michael Prendergast about Panorama: Sick and Tired, broadcast by BBC1 on 8 and 11 November 1999.

Dr Prendergast, consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist, contributed to the programme, which featured his treatment of children with chronic fatigue syndrome at Great Ormond Street Hospital For Children NHS Trust and the Institute of Child Health. Dr Prendergast complained that he had been treated unjustly or unfairly in the programme.

The Commission found no unfairness in the BBC's dealings with Dr Prendergast concerning the obtaining of his contribution. Nor did it find any unfairness in another contributor's comments on a lecture he had given, or in the conduct of the programme's interview with a child patient.

However, the Commission did find unfairness in Panorama's representation of Dr Prendergast's treatment as "psychological", particularly in its failure to use his recorded responses on this point; in the inaccurate portrayal of his ward as having been "locked"; in an unlabelled dramatic reconstruction; in the use of a survey without an indication of its limitations; and in a decision not to refer to Dr Prendergast's claimed success rate.

Accordingly, the complaint was upheld.

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