By Giselle Green


I happened to meet a hospital consultant over the weekend who has worked with and knew Jacintha Saldanha. He was deeply distressed by what had happened. I expressed surprise that an incident for which she remained anonymous, wasn’t blamed or rebuked and which even Prince Charles later joked about, could possibly have led to her suicide. He explained to me how seriously Jacintha took her nursing duties, how crucial patient confidentiality is to nurses like her, and how devastating it would have been for her to be humiliated not just in front of the world but more importantly in front of her professional colleagues who would have known her identity. I found it humbling to realise how some people literally take the principles underpinning their jobs deadly seriously. Sadly no one else in this sorry affair did.

In their emotionally-charged interviews, the two Australian DJs behind the hoax call, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, kept emphasising that they were not out to fool anyone or humiliate anyone other than themselves. The joke, they said, was one hundred per cent on them; they were only after a 20 second piece of silliness to put on air. Listening back to their totally amateurish spoof, replete with dreadful accents and barking corgis, you do have to believe them. But this misses the point. The problem arose because they hadn’t thought through what might happen if their prank call actually crossed a line and became a real call, with a real nurse about a real patient expecting a real baby. Was it not highly irresponsible to conduct such a call and totally fail to consider the implications of this “silly little prank”?

For the media, a new angle on the royal baby story must have seemed like a godsend. They were clearly conscious of patient confidentiality and most outlets refrained from broadcasting the details of Kate’s condition. Yet none seemed worried about the humiliation of the nurses; neither the senior managers and lawyers at the radio station who approved the pre-recorded call, nor the broadcasters who repeatedly replayed the initial conversation with Jacintha Saldanha. Did anyone stop to consider that she (and indeed her colleague) might be feeling as though the whole world was laughing at her expense?

As well as underestimating the grave repercussions of broadcasting the prank call, staff at the Australian radio station totally failed to do their job properly in another respect – to get permission to run the interview. They claim they tried to contact the hospital five times, presumably to get clearance. But repeatedly trying to ask for permission doesn’t mean you have been granted permission. The radio station was clearly out of order. Even Borat gets interviewees to sign waivers.

I would also question whether King Edward VII Hospital did its job appropriately, given that the ultimate royal guest was occupying one of its beds. Were staff not forewarned to be on their guard for a media onslaught? Should a professional, 24 hour receptionist have been employed? And there are questions too for Buckingham Palace: should Royal Protection officers give more than physical protection? Just as in Las Vegas, when they failed to protect Harry’s honour, shouldn’t in this case they have done more to protect Kate’s privacy, whether advising staff or even taking on duties themselves, such as screening phone calls? We cannot turn back the clock but I hope all parties involved in this dreadful affair will own up to failing to do their jobs with the deadly seriousness with which Jacintha sadly did hers.