Health chiefs have blasted a spoof online video post that claimed a Wigan maternity nurse switched thousands of babies at birth behind their parents’ backs.
A blog appeared on social media complete with a professional-looking reconstruction of the medic making her deathbed confession to the countless child swaps during a 28-year career at Billinge Hospital.
There is no doubt that the publication of the prank video has caused a lot of upset and concern for many people
While many of the people who saw it before it was suddenly taken down were cynical of its claims, there were also concerns raised in some quarters that there may be some truth in it.
Within hours of the blog being withdrawn, the Wigan Observer was contacted by the man claiming to be its creator - who went by the name of John Smith - saying that it was clearly all fiction and described it as a “satire.”
But Wrightington Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust (WWL) bosses failed to see the funny side, describing the video as “disturbing,” saying the choice of Billinge Hospital for such a fake story was “regrettable” and claiming it had caused a lot of concern and upset.
Facebook users were confronted with a video, complete with old pictures of the now defunct hospital and a fake “top secret” document about a project called the “Cuckoo Children of Billinge.”
It suggested that MI5, no less, had demanded the immediate closure of the hospital and said it was imperative that the information was kept out of the public domain.
The article went on: “During her alleged confession, the midwife also claimed she was able to see ‘coloured auras’ which surrounded newly born babies and their mothers, and whenever she saw auras that in her opinion ‘did not match’, she would exchange the baby with a mother who’s aura was the same.
“She further claimed that she had been swapping babies this way from 1971 to around 1999, and although she could not recall the exact numbers involved, she estimated that for the 28 years she worked at the hospital, she would swap no fewer than two babies a day.”
It said that the documents, supposedly released earlier this month, added credence to rumours about the nurse - only described as 1B - that had been circulating since 2003.
Billinge Hospital closed in 2004, with maternity services moving to Wigan Infirmary and the site is now a housing estate.
As the furore over the claims grew, “Mr Smith” e-mailed the Wigan Observer office. He said: “The video was clearly from a page that dealt in fiction, the way the video was put together was one of complete fiction ... ludicrous statements and if anyone did the maths would result in 250k babies being swapped or something daft like that. It was satire.
“However, after it was published the page received messages and I realised that for a small vulnerable minority it wasn’t a joke. I also realised the legal impact on this is massive as it’s all fiction.
“I have removed the page and deleted the video.”
Then on the Black Chapter site on which the blog first appeared, a message was posted: “Last night we posted a video about a fictitious midwife, although it was clearly all fake, a small percentage took it the wrong way. We stated that this page was for fiction and folklore and our latest post was 100% made up. For this reason we have removed the video. Please note that all content was just for entertainment.”
But a WWL spokeswoman said: “The trust was made aware of a disturbing video that was posted on social media on Wednesday. The video made accusations that an un-named midwife was involved with swapping babies during a 28-year period at Billinge Hospital.
“We were most pleased to find on Thursday that the video had been taken down and confirmed as a hoax.
“A full confession has been posted by the perpetrator, declaring the content a joke.
“It is most regrettable that the hoaxer decided to use Billinge Hospital as the focus.
“There is no doubt that the publication of the prank video has caused a lot of upset and concern for many people.
“We hope that now it has been confirmed as an act of complete fabrication that the matter will now rest.”