STV News gets it all wrong on delayed patient discharges

18th January 2017

As both Reporting Scotland and STV News, last night, headlined NHS scare stories, STV News stumbled over the trend in delayed patient discharge from Scottish hospitals. Here’s what they said:

‘And there has been little sign of improvement in the problem of delayed discharge from hospital.’

They mentioned that 1 509 people were delayed in November 2016 but they didn’t tell us, crucially, of any of these contextual factors:

  1. The 1 509 represented a reduction from 1 576 from October or 4.3%
  2. That represented a delay in days lost to bed-blocking from 48 104 to 45 639 or 5.1%
  3. This was on top of a 9% decrease on 2014/2015
  4. That some boards had been improving at a massively higher rate with, for example, Inverclyde down 54%!
  5. That NHS Scotland in 2015/2016 dealt with 1 622 547 cases so delayed discharges at the reported levels is a very small element in their performance
  6. That Scotland can cope much better than England with bed blocking as we have 4.67 beds per 1 000 population whereas NHS England has only 2.95 per 1000.

Remember also that with each decrease it becomes more difficult to make further decreases from a smaller and probably more complex, older (75% over 75) and difficult to place population so going from 9% delayed discharges to 4.3% is not necessarily failing in any way.

Here are the board-by-board figures which show quite dramatic improvements taking place in many of them:

Shetland Islands (56% reduction),

Inverclyde (54%),

West Dunbartonshire (38%),

East Renfrewshire (38%),

North Ayrshire (35%), Glasgow City (31%),

Angus (30%),

Midlothian (25%),

East Dunbartonshire (24%),

East Ayrshire (24%),

Dumfries and Galloway (21%),

East Lothian (20%),

Aberdeen (19%),

Falkirk (18%),

West Lothian (17%),

Aberdeenshire (17%),

Renfrewshire (16%)

Stirling (10%).


However the number of bed days occupied by delayed discharge patients has increased in:


Orkney (42% increase),

Perth and Kinross (26%),

Dundee City (23%), North Lanarkshire

(21%), Highland (11%),

Clackmannanshire (8%),

South Ayrshire, South Lanarkshire and Fife (5%),

Argyll and Bute (3%).

The above do not suggest a national problem that can be blamed on the Scottish Government but rather the need for some boards to learn from others and to improve themselves.


Is everything in Scotland ‘near breaking point?’



17th January 2017

We’ve heard over the last few days, from the BMA leader, that NHS Scotland is ‘near breaking point.’ Indeed, in Sunday’s interview (15.1.97) with Gordon Brewer, he and the Tory MSP interviewed used the phrase about ten times. Neither, of course, offered any evidence but merely anecdote. The claims from a highly partisan trade unionist in pursuit of 4% extra funding, or ‘we’re all emigrating’, and that’s all they were, claims, were then plastered all over the Unionist media.

Have you noticed that in Scotland it’s always worryingly ‘near’ for viewers and readers but not here yet? That means you can make sensational claims about SNP incompetence and then conveniently forget about them when they do not come to pass. NHS Scotland’s ‘near’ crisis did not materialise and the media gaze seems to have turned away already, looking for other ‘might-happen-crises’ in other sectors of SNP responsibility.

Today, in all the same media outlets, we had the news that the relationship between Scottish teachers and the Scottish Qualification Agency (SQA) is just as strained:

‘Teacher and Scottish exam board relations ‘near breaking point’ (Scotsman, 17.1.17)

My fourth and last child is in Year 6 locally. I’ve never heard any of her teachers complaining about the SQA or CfE. Here’s the source for these dramatic claims:

‘The evidence our committee [Education] received was nothing less than eye opening about some of the problems faced by those working so hard on the front line of education.’

Now, the Education and Skills Committee meets tomorrow, 18th January 2017 and the Committee’s report on the performance of Education Scotland and SQA will be published on Tuesday 17th January. Yet, the claims in the media were published on the 16th. I’m puzzled. Maybe they brought it all forward. Either way, this is not my main criticism of the headlines.

You, see, we don’t know what kind of survey this was. If you do a self-selecting survey of any profession (GPs, nurses, social workers and especially teachers who I know from personal experience incubate discontent and infect each other daily with it) then the disgruntled will be straight in there to moan and the majority will not be heard. If you really want to know accurately what is going on you have to do proper research with a representative, anonymised and randomised sample and have it carried out by an independent research agency with no axes to grind. I’m pretty sure the report presented to the Scottish Parliament’s Education committee, whenever it is, will be of the former unreliable kind loved only by the bad news merchants in the Unionist media.

I could be wrong. I cannot find the actual full report with methodology. If I or any of you find it and it is a piece of ‘proper’ research, I’ll eat something.

Four papers, all dated vaguely ‘January 2017’, have been tabled prior to the meeting and are available at:

They are from the EIS, The Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scottish Government and Education and SQA. I’ve had a look at them all. THE EIS report mentions no survey and certainly no ‘breaking points’ and is, in fact quite positive:

‘In our submission to Scottish Government’s Review of Educational Governance, the EIS highlighted a social partnership approach as being one of Scottish Education’s greatest strengths.’

The Royal Society of Edinburgh paper is merely a set of question for the Education Committee’s management board and makes absolutely no statements suggesting evidence of any crisis nor does it mention any ‘breaking points.’

The Scottish Government and Education paper is largely descriptive but notably contradicts the media suggestions that the OECD’s research was critical of the SQA’s Curriculum for Excellence:

‘14. The OECD review, Improving Schools in Scotland: AN OECD Perspective (2015) specifically discussed Curriculum for Excellence governance. It states that “the CfE Management board, comprising a wide range of representative stakeholders in Scottish education, occupies a central position in directing Curriculum for Excellence. This arrangement has been well fitted to the task of implementing CfE as a Scotland-wide curriculum programme. That task required consensus and managing processes so that implementation, including of assessment and qualifications, would happen as smoothly as possible.”

Finally, the SQA report itself does not identify any problems, as you might expect.

So where is the ‘eye-opening’ evidence of a system at ‘breaking point?’  Did some at the actual meeting express such views? Oh, no, that’s tomorrow. I know, some disgruntled individual, either of the Unionist parties or in some way induced by them to do so, has been interviewed by the Unionist media and dished the dirt, knowing that the committee itself will be less ‘newsworthy.’ The agenda does list some likely candidates for a bit of stirring. See them at:

The potential for Scottish Wind Power is even greater than we thought. Could a single wind turbine power a whole Scottish city?



Having written an already really positive comment on the 10th January, I was impressed to discover that this success was based on what is in fact quite an early stage in the development of wind power. I wrote this headline on the 10th:

Two new records for Scottish wind power ‘underline the massive progress Scotland is making in securing an ever increasing proportion of its electricity needs from wind power and other clean renewable sources.’

 The Independent newspaper had headlined with:

‘Scotland’s wind turbines provided more electricity than the country needed four days in a row’ and went on to enthuse with this:

 ‘The total amount of wind energy produced on Christmas Eve was also the highest ever, with more than 74,000MWh sent to the National Grid – equivalent to the average daily electricity needs of 6.09 million homes. And, as energy use fell on Christmas Day, wind turbines provided 153 per cent of Scotland’s electricity needs.’

What I had not but maybe should have realised was that these achievements are being made in the very early stages of the development of wind power technology and that more, much more, is on the way, to make wind power an even more optimistic strategy for Scotland’s energy future. I stumbled across this staggering headline in a European Bank report:


Here’s an extract from the report:

‘The blades of the world’s biggest wind turbine are 80 meters long, the wingspan of an Airbus A380. The circle they make when they sweep around is larger than the iconic London Eye ferris wheel. And not one but 44 of these turbines are set to be installed in the Norther windfarm, 22 kilometres off the coast of Belgium. But not only are wind turbines getting bigger. Thanks to technological advances and financing from banks, such as the European Investment Bank, wind power is also increasingly affordable. The EIB’s renewable energy division’s senior engineer David González says technologies need a certain level of take-up to become competitive. “Technologies that we now consider well established such as combined cycle gas turbines were still having issues even in the 1990s,” he muses. “Electricity generation technologies take long to mature. For instance, steam turbines took nearly 80 years to become widespread. So for wind turbines to mature, you will need enough trial space and enough R&D investment for the same to happen.’

 Reading this has taking my optimism about Scotland’s energy future, based on the Independent newspaper report of our already encouraging success with current levels of technology on to a new level. It seems to me that, over the next few decades with breakthroughs in energy storage, wind power has the potential to make Scotland a massive exporter of power as well as self-sufficient and secure.

The Herald and BBC Scotland are at it again. A presumably competent doctor but definitely a trades union guy with an ‘axe to grind’ is allowed to distort the reality of NHS Scotland and to malign the SNP Government’s management of it

This is a bit of re-tread but I’ve been forced to expand and re-use part of my previous attack on Dr Bennie, Chair of BMA Scotland again.

The Herald, headlined today (16.1.17) with:

NHS stretched to breaking point, says British Medical Association chief

This claim comes at a time when those who watch BBC News at 6 or read the English press will know, from actual statistics, just what a ‘breaking point’ looks like, in the reality of NHS England. At least time his title is more accurate though not clear as to its main Bob Crowe-like function. The Herald had headlined on the 27th December 2016 with:

‘SNP priorities on health all wrong, warns leading Scots doctor’

Gordon Brewer gave him time on Sunday 15th January 2017 to repeat or have repeated by as Tory MSP, evidence-free, around ten times his claim that the NHS Scotland staffing was ‘stretched to breaking point.’ You’ll know, of course that that phrase might well be applied accurately to NHS England but there is absolutely no evidence of such a crisis in Scotland. It was repeated on Reporting Scotland that night and the Herald led with it this morning. All we have here is a warning from a trade union leader that his members need 4% more funding or such a crisis is coming. He also suggested that many GPs would just emigrate (and make it worse presumably) if they didn’t get more attractive conditions! Nice. He has of course been warning for more than a year now that such a crisis would hit over this Xmas/New Year period. It hasn’t.  We even had Reporting Scotland admit it grudgingly but with many ‘buts’ on the 12th January 2017, like this:

‘We’ve heard a lot in the last few days about the NHS crisis (emphasised) in England. I think it would be fair to say the picture in Scotland looks better…’

If we look at the figures for A&E, the figures show we’re better off, as the First Minister said, we’re 10% better off…’

‘In terms of social care, we are doing some good work on the ground….’

I’ll get to the main point soon but I need to deal with the ‘British Medical Association Chief’ and the earlier ‘leading scots doctor’ bit first because the first title still suggests the same need for unquestioning respect as did the second . Peter Bennie is chairman, elected union leader, of the British Medical Association’s Scottish branch. I’ve had a wee search but I can find no sign of him being a leading doctor. There’s no sign of awards for exceptional practice nor research publications presenting cutting-edge findings to move practice on nor is there even sign of him having managed anything much. It looks like he might be a leading trades unionist though, again, he’s no Bob Crowe, late of the RMT and the BMA Scotland is pretty wee. If he’s leading anything it’s in an essentially political role and not medical role so he’s not a ‘leading doctor’ and ‘convener’ would be more accurate than ‘chief’.

I’m not knocking being a trade union leader by any means. I was a lifelong member of the teachers’ EIS union. I remember many of its ‘leaders’ at different levels. Often good trade unionists, I don’t remember any of them have been leading educationists. They were usually people who had become more interested in the political role of the unions and gradually rose within those organisations on the basis of popularity.

So Doctor Bennie is primarily getting attention in the Scottish mainstream (Unionist) media because he is a trade unionist in a union with posh sounding personal and organisational titles and a very Unionist sounding, name.

Right, on the main point – what are the actual priorities that he says the SNP were and still are presumably getting ‘all wrong?’ Well, he was a bit short on detail in December and is no better in January. He just seems to want more money spent on NHS Scotland. He had little, for example, to say about the big SNP priority of integrating social and health care which is receiving praise:

( wales?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_term=socialshare)

and looks like working in terms of, for example, reducing bed blocking by the elderly in the way English hospitals are being paralysed by. So, like all trades unionists, he asks his members if they want more money and resources and they say yes, please. Is that how he thinks you run anything at all?

Back in June, I posted a list, fully sourced, of fifteen ways in which NHS Scotland was objectively doing well, by UK and global comparison, regardless of his judgement that more cash was needed or we’d be heading for a crisis. I’ll repeat the link for them at the bottom of this. First, though, here’s a novel idea. Here are some things that NHS Scotland, thanks to the SNP-led Scottish Government, is NOT doing….badly….unlike Tory-‘managed’ NHS England:

  1. We’ve had nothing you could call a ‘humanitarian crisis’ in NHS Scotland. Red Cross chief executive, Mike Adamson, said: ‘The British Red Cross is on the front line, responding to the humanitarian crisis in our hospital and ambulance services across the country [England].’ Indeed there is no evidence of anything like a system wide crisis in Scotland. Reporting Scotland have scrabbled around for something/anything as in their sad Twitter plea for pregnant mothers who have been inconvenienced which found five who had to travel an extra 7 miles for a bed. See:
  2. We’ve had NO junior doctors’ strikes causing thousands of cancelled and delayed operations because the SNP unlike the UK Tories haven’t tried to bully them into new contracts. Thank goodness for BBC News at 6 telling us this because Reporting Scotland won’t touch the story with a disinfected endoscopic probe.
  3. NHS Scotland has NOT been cancelling large numbers of urgent operations like NHS England ( If they had, do you think Reporting Scotland would have neglected to tell us?
  4. Scottish hospitals have NOT been told to put thousands of operations ‘on hold’ over Xmas and New Year to ‘free up beds.’ ( Again, if they had, do you think Reporting Scotland would have neglected to tell us?
  5. There is NO social care and bed-blocking crisis in Scotland because the Scottish Government has been integrating the two for years now (
  6. Bed blocking by the elderly is down 12% in Scotland ( and up 80% in England for the same reason (
  7. There’s NO evidence of a crisis in Scottish Maternity wards despite a shamefully distorted Reporting Scotland story (

So, as so often before, the Unionist media shamelessly ‘weaponise’ NHS Scotland with apparently no care for the possible effects on anxious prospective patients. Who knows how many they’ve scared into delaying requests for treatment.

Finally, here’s the link for the list of 15 I published in June:

Is the BMA Chair in Scotland relieved to be in Scotland after seeing Theresa May savage his English colleagues and blame them for the crisis in A&E? Not a bit of it!


Gordon Brewer (c)

Following on quickly from the question in the title of my earlier piece today (15.1.17):

‘As Theresa May scapegoats English GP’s will Scotland’s Royal College of General Practitioners and the BMA Scotland Branch now begin to show some respect for the Scottish Government?’

I was able to check the answer only hours later as BMA Scotland Chair, Peter Bennie, appeared on Sunday Politics with Gordon Brewer. Gordon did introduce the debate to follow with:

After weeks of headlines detailing problems in NHS England, what is the state of the NHS in Scotland?

‘Problems’ is put it a bit mildly but, anyway, Gordon left the question hanging, we never got an answer,  and asked Bennie the question he really wanted to be asked about funding stagnating. So, without presenting any statistics or empirical evidence whatsoever, Bennie launched into an extended list of claims of ‘staff stretched to breaking point’ and of unfilled vacancies contributing to that situation. Over the piece, we heard that phrase over and over (ten times?) without once being offered any indication of research demonstrating it to be true and not just anecdote from a trades union leader. Remember, despite the respect offered to him by people like Brewer, Bennie is no more to be trusted as impartial than the leaders of UNITE or of the RMT.

Brewer made no attempt to introduce the abundant evidence of superiority in the operation of NHS Scotland nor of the many pieces of research demonstrating it (see my earlier piece). He, astonishingly, given his opening comment, did not return to the horror stories emerging from NHS England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Instead Bennie was allowed, un-contradicted, to insist GP jobs needed to be made more attractive or they’ll all go abroad. What and give up on Scotland’s golf courses? Aye right. Also, he was able to say ‘the majority of staff are working way beyond what they ought to be doing’ without, again, being able to refer to any reliable source of the statement’s accuracy. Would the leaders of UNITE or the RMT be treated so respectfully? I doubt it.

A short debate between a Tory and SNP MSP followed. The SNP MSP pointed out that they had already invested an extra £500 million over inflation but this pretty important figure was not put to the BMA guy to challenge him in any way. The Tory just ignored it and Gordon treated him kindly as if he was a member of a completely different party from Theresa May. The Tory also repeated the scurrilous BBC tale of five women turned away from the Southern General and sent 7 miles away to the RAH. OMG, what a scandal! They think they have it tough in England?

I hope you’re grateful that I watched this for you!

I skipped by the Andrew Neil bit of course, keeping firm control of my squirming guts as he flashed by.

As Theresa May scapegoats English GP’s will Scotland’s Royal College of General Practitioners and the BMA Scotland Branch now begin to show some respect for the Scottish Government?

‘The Prime Minister has expressed frustration at the failure of more GP practices to offer extended opening hours, amid intensifying pressure on NHS [England] hospital services.

Downing Street warned surgeries in England which refuse to move to 8am to 8pm opening, seven days-a-week will lose funding unless they can prove there is no demand from patients.’ (Daily Mail, 14.1.17)

There’s deep irony in the UK Tories turning on the English GP’s and blaming them for the ‘humanitarian crisis’ in English hospitals after the years of campaigning by the Royal College of General Practitioners and the BMA, in collusion with the Unionist parties and media, to undermine the Scottish Government’s management of NHS Scotland and by implication the case for independence..

As far back as 2013, we could read this:

‘Chairman of the BMA’s Scottish General Practitioners Committee Alan McDevitt also said Westminster’s changes would have a “negative impact on general practice in Scotland”.

GPC negotiator Dr Chaand Nagpaul said:

“We would very much hope, even at this stage, that the Government will show English GPs the same respect as Scottish GPs have been afforded. We find it very hard to understand why GPs in England are being discriminated against [when] there is a deal that is acceptable north of the border, which is not an imposition.”

Despite this show of good will by the Scottish Government, of hard evidence that Scottish GPs are more content than most in the world and that there are more of them per capita than in the rest of the UK (see below), the RCGP and the BMA have mounted a long and weary campaign of misinformation and vague accusations against the SNP and found it well-reported in the Scottish Unionist media. Here are the links to the evidence of the second and third point above:

So, the RCGP and the BMA in Scotland have much to be satisfied with especially in the light of recent attempts in England to scapegoat them for the failures of the Tory government there. Yet, they have repeatedly provided suspect, often just wrong, but headline grabbing stories for the Scottish media to enable the construction of a climate in which it seems the Scottish Government is failing to manage NHS Scotland.

In March 2015, I wrote:

‘This time it’s a crisis in GP numbers. There is a shortage, by the BMA’s estimation, of around 1 in 5 unfilled posts. Whose estimation? The BMA or British Medical Association like the Royal College of Nursing has a name saturated in goodness and authority, so we can trust them can’t we? No, we can’t. Remember what I said about the RCN? It applies to the BMA just as much. This is a just a posh trades union. The BMA says so on its website and acts in ‘the interest of its members’ aspirations’. That means the same as ‘wur members’ aspirations’ except the BMA aspirations are dizzyingly high compared to those of the average paid worker. I’m not saying there isn’t a shortage of GPs, but we don’t know what kind of shortage or how bad a shortage until we get independent research. Like a coal-miner or a railway-worker, they might be manoeuvring to get more money for shorter hours.

Finally are these research findings of a formal, reliable, nature or just impressionistic ad hoc surveying by partisan ‘researchers’? No such research report is published on the seriously reliable BMJ research journal site. The BMA doesn’t seem to have a research section at all and a search of their site reveals nothing. The BMA press release does indicate there was a 61% response rate but gives no other details that we might use to judge its quality. Of those practices who responded, 17% had at least one vacancy. Let’s have a wee second opinion using the BMA’s press release figures, on this patient arithmetic, shall we?
GP practices in Scotland                                             988
Responses                                                                               463
Actual response rate                                                  463/988*100 = 47% NOT 61%
Respondents with at least 1 unfilled vacancy            17% of 463 = 79 practices or 1 in 6
Or if non-respondents had no vacancies                    79/988 = 8% or 1 in 12 practices’

In early 2016, we had these headlines:

‘Almost nine out of ten Scottish GPs believe patient care is being jeopardised by a lack of resources, according to a new poll.’ STV News, 28th April 2016

‘Top doctor blasts SNP for lack of funding as he warns of longer waits to see a GP and a future without family doctors’ Daily Record (Glasgow) 27th January, 2016

Again at the time I wrote to demolish these claims:

‘Leaving aside the obvious difficulty in relying on a sample of 150 GPs out of a population of around 5 000 Scottish GPs (0.3%) and the RCGP’s frankly simplistic reading of the results, there are real problems with this reliance by ComRes: on self-assessed online surveys with sometimes leading questions, and all-to-predictable results.

Here’s just one example of a leading question.: The above headline: ‘89% of GPs say they worry that lack of resources is putting patient care at risk.’ was in response to a question, more of a prompt really: ‘I worry about lack of resources putting patient care at risk.’ Ask any health professional that question and who among them do you expect would admit to not worrying if such a thing were to be the case? Further, the headline omits the fact that only 42% ‘strongly agreed’ with the prompt while 47% only ‘somewhat agreed.’ Who wouldn’t ‘somewhat’ agree that a shortage of resources might ‘somewhat’ worry them? These are people ‘somewhat’ high in empathy according to psychopathy tests.

For those with other lives, I’ll sum up. Small sample, online surveys of ‘caring’ professional groups (teachers, nurses, doctors), based on respondents’ self-assessment of their feelings, to questions about how stressed and over-worked they feel, are damned near SFA-use and carry a big health risk (pun intended) if you intend to say anything confident about them. OK RCGP Scotland Region? Do pay attention.’

The above is only a small selection of my responses to BMA and RCGP Scotland branch over the last two years but to finish today, here’s an example of the astonishing kind of thing being said as recently as April 2016 by RCGP chair Dr Miles Mack:

England now has the security of knowing that its general practice service is safe and will remain. To give Scotland, birthplace of the NHS model, comparable security, we would need to see £270 million more invested in general practice in 2020/21 than there was in 2014/15. This is a defining election issue, right at the heart of Scottish life.’ Dr Miles Mack, Royal College of General Practitioners Scotland (RCGP) in the Herald (April 23rd)

As we watch the English ‘NHS’ fall apart with, for example, repeated junior doctors’ strikes, appalling failures in A&E and health boards generally and attempts to privatise ambulance services, our first reaction to the Scottish RCGP’s suggestion (above) is likely to be disbelief.

In June 2016 we had this in the Herald and many others like it across the Scottish MSM:

‘Herald View: GP shortages point to perfect storm for NHS’

Even as recently as the 3rd January 2017, as NHS Scotland coped and the others collapsed, we saw this kind of thing in the Evening Telegraph:

‘A leading Dundee GP has likened the [Scottish] national doctor shortage to “a slow motion car crash”, saying things are going to get worse before they improve.’

I suspect Dr Mack now wants to forget he ever said the above. Goodness knows what the ‘leading’ Dundee GP is using for evidence. Hopefully the BMA and the RCGP in Scotland have ‘smelled the coffee’ and realise how lucky they are. Perhaps, now, they might desist from their naked Unionist propaganda?

Complaint to BBC Scotland re social media stalking submitted today

First half of UK Postcode
Type of complaint
BBC News (TV, Radio and website)
Which news service is it about
General News
Complaint category
Contacted us before
Complaint title
Incitement of complaints against NHS Scotland
Complaint description
On 12th January 2016, BBC Scotland Newsdesk tweeted: ‘Have you been affected by Glasgow’s QEUH maternity unit being closed to new admissions? Let us know your story.’ at: At 6.30pm on13th Reporting Scotland headlined with ‘A Health board apologises to five pregnant women who were turned away from the maternity unit at Glasgow’s ‘flagship’ hospital because of a shortage of beds.’ Along with commentators under the original tweet I see this as unethical behaviour contrary to your Royal Charter. One wrote: ‘Have you been affected by the death of journalism by lazy social media stalkers? Let us know your story’ while another equally sarcastically wrote: ‘Impressive start in establishing public trust by Donalda’s new BBC Scotland regime.’ This is behaviour worthy only of the gutter press and not the national broadcaster with a commitment to educate and to inform. Further the story is not newsworthy (STV ignored it) Five pregnant women had to travel an extra 7.3 miles for a bed, taking as long as 19 minutes to do so. Those of us not living in an inner city area may well remember much longer journeys from our home to the nearest maternity unit, 30 or more miles away. In the face of the kind of catastrophe affecting NHS England, Wales and NI, you’d think BBC Scotland would either praise NHS Scotland or if they can’t bear to do that, just shut up. The above report is both pathetic and unethical and was the 8th negative NHS Scotland story in 8 days. STV had only 3. Reporting Scotland should be ashamed