THE row over a photo of four-year-old Jack Williment-Barr sleeping on the floor of A&E at Leeds General Infirmary encapsulates pretty much everything you need to know about public discourse in the 'fake news' era.

Firstly, it wasn't fake. Secondly, social media is the perfect breeding ground for conspiracy theories and confirmation bias. And thirdly (and most depressing of all in my opinion), the real issues are all too quickly lost in a debate that descends into acrimony, point-scoring and knee-jerk denialism.

Modern day exchanges seem to be about more heat than light. There is no context, nuance or attempt to delve into the underlying causes of events.

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Instead, this poor young boy with pneumonia was seized on by supporters of Boris Johnson and Brexit as a fabrication designed to advance a Labour agenda.

The boy's mother was quoted in the Labour-supporting Daily Mirror saying that the experience had convinced her to vote for Jeremy Corbyn's party - but that doesn't mean that it never happened.

Notably it was a local paper, the Yorkshire Evening Post, that broke the story, and hospital bosses apologised for the situation blaming a shortage of beds - no one there was denying it.

The only people who were were posting from anonymous Facebook and Twitter accounts, claiming a "friend of a friend" said it never happened.

But social media is a forum where people faced with facts they don't like prefer to call them lies.

The key issue missed in all this furore, however, is why were there no beds for Jack?

For years, the NHS in England - like Scotland - has been cutting hospital bed numbers. Since 2010, NHS England has cut 17,000 (or 12%) of its hospital and mental health beds; in Scotland they are down by 1,122 over the same period - a fall of 8%.

This is not a new trend in either nation though. From the 1980s onwards there has been a steady reduction in NHS beds amid the rise of keyhole surgeries with shorter recovery times, day procedures and a shift towards cheaper community-based care.

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But Jack's case is not really an argument for greater investment in hospitals or A&E so much as in social care, where funding is sorely lacking.

The real reason there was no bed for him is probably because the hospital beds were occupied by elderly patients well enough to leave, but with no social care package or care home bed in place.

In a rush to turn his case into a symbol of NHS failure, we risk cementing the same disregard for social care that has led successive governments to underfund it.

But try telling that to the Twittersphere.