Rebecca Thomas

The Independent

As the NHS has tried to battle back from Covid and been hit by a growing A&E crisis, Rebecca Thomas's stellar contacts at all levels of the health service have allowed her to reveal the truth behind the spin as hospitals face increasing pressure.

The best example of this has been her work on "hidden" A&E waits, showing the true scale of backlogs in emergency departments. In April, thanks to leaked high level data, Thomas revealed that during a single week in March more than 25,000 patients had been forced to wait more than 12 hours at emergency departments, indicating record delays. This was in stark contrast to official figures that counted only the time after a decision had been made to admit a patient, ignoring the time they had already waited. Later stories used more extensive data to show how the problem had grown, with more than 700,000 12-hour waits in the first seven months of the year. By August, the UK Statistics Authority had intervened, with the watchdog forcing the health service to publish the more accurate waiting times. Expert health reporting has never been more important than in the wake of the pandemic, and Thomas's deep understanding of how the NHS operates has helped explain to readers how and why the health service is facing record pressures. Her special report in May, 'Can the NHS live with Covid?', used that expertise and her contacts book to cover the fallout from the pandemic and show readers succinctly how problems in each area of hospitals was having knock-on effects elsewhere. It was widely praised by medical professionals for accurately portraying the issues they were seeing on wards. This depth of knowledge has also allowed Thomas to bring to light wider issues within the health service, such as through her investigation into the treatment of mental health patients in units run by The Huntercombe Group. Thomas gained the trust of more than 20 patients who told their stories, but these testimonies were supplemented by well-placed FoIs and leaked reports acquired through contacts that painted a picture not just of how patients were badly treated, but also the missed warnings across regulators and how the NHS continues to hand huge sums to the group. The story gained a strong reaction from the sector and has led to calls from MPs for a wider inquiry into mental health inpatient care.