UK

Kate hoax call: London hospital protests to radio network

  • 9 December 2012
  • From the section UK
Jacintha Saldanha
Image caption Jacintha Saldanha was the duty nurse who answered the prank call.

The London hospital which employed a nurse caught up in a hoax call about details of the Duchess of Cambridge has protested to the Australian network which broadcast the conversation.

The chairman of King Edward VII Hospital wrote to Southern Cross Austereo a day after Jacintha Saldanha, 46, apparently killed herself.

Lord Glenarthur said the consequences of the "ill-considered actions" were "frankly, tragic beyond words".

The show has been taken off air.

The Sydney station, 2Day FM, is owned by Southern Cross Austereo. It has suspended all advertising.

Lord Glenarthur wrote to the chairman of Southern Cross Austereo, Max Moore-Wilson, on Saturday, about the call made on Tuesday while the pregnant duchess was being treated for acute morning sickness.

The DJs, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, impersonated the Queen and the Prince of Wales, and their call was put through by duty nurse Mrs Saldanha to the duchess's nurse who then unwittingly revealed details of her medical condition.

The call was recorded before being assessed by the station's lawyers and then broadcast.

"King Edward VII's Hospital cares for sick people, and it was extremely foolish of your presenters even to consider trying to lie their way through to one of our patients, let alone actually make the call," Lord Glenarthur wrote.

"Then to discover that, not only had this happened, but that the call had been pre-recorded and the decision to transmit approved by your station's management, was truly appalling."

Lord Glenarthur added: "The immediate consequence of these premeditated and ill-considered actions was the humiliation of two dedicated and caring nurses who were simply doing their job tending to their patients.

"The longer term consequence has been reported around the world and is, frankly, tragic beyond words.

"I appreciate that you cannot undo the damage which has been done but I would urge you to take steps to ensure that such an incident could never be repeated."

The BBC understands Mrs Saldanha had not been suspended or disciplined by the hospital.

Meanwhile, the Duke of Cambridge has attended the Winter Whites Gala in aid of homeless charity Centrepoint at the Royal Albert Hall.

Prince William attended the event without his wife who is having a period of rest following her release from hospital on Thursday.

The Albert Hall hosted a veterans' tennis tournament between former British number one Tim Henman and Goran Ivanisevic.

Earlier on Saturday, the 2Day FM chief executive, Rhys Holleran, said the DJs were "completely shattered" by the death.

Australian media watchdog, Australian Communications and Media Authority, has received complaints about the hoax call even before the death, and more afterwards.

Image caption Prince William attended a charity event on Saturday night without his wife who is resting

Mrs Saldanha's body was found at accommodation near the hospital. Her husband and two children in Bristol were said to be being comforted by family and friends.

A friend at the address said they were "very, very shocked and unhappy at the tragedy".

A bouquet of flowers was propped up against iron gates at the house.

'Serious consequences'

Strong criticism has also come from nursing groups, both in the UK and Australia.

The Royal College of Nursing chief executive Dr Peter Carter said: "It is deeply saddening that a simple human error due to a cruel hoax could lead to the death of a dedicated and caring member of the nursing profession."

The New South Wales Nurses and Midwives' Association said it has written to the general manager of 2Day FM, Jeremy Simpson, even before the death, explaining the "very serious professional consequences" if it had happened to a nurse in Australia.

Media captionRhys Holleran: "This is a tragic event that could not have been reasonably foreseen"

Association general secretary Brett Holmes said the nurses involved could potentially have had to go through three separate disciplinary processes, including those conducted by their employer and other inquiries conducted by the regulating authority and the Health Care Complaints Commission.

He described these processes as "stressful and deeply traumatic experiences for many nurses and midwives, regardless of the level of wrongdoing".

He said he hoped the station "has undertaken to never again attempt to jeopardise their professional standing by perpetrating such a deception against another hardworking nurse or midwife".

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