NHS Scotland – neither as bad as critics or as good as SNP claim?




Has the Herald’s Health Correspondent had a change of heart or, if not an actual transplant, just some minor heart surgery? Has a friend or relative come out of a Scottish hospital enthusing about the treatment? Helen does seem to have shifted her ground a wee bit from her endless trail of headlines like:

How close is NHS Scotland to a tipping point this winter?

Patients say hospital stays are making them more ill and staff lack compassion

A third of trauma patients wait an hour for A&E consultation

Elderly care plans hit by lack of money and staff,

Number of hospital beds in Scotland drops by 600

Here’s what Helen said today, 3rd November 2016:

‘THE airwaves above Scotland crackled with uplifting stories about the NHS last week. Patients described swift treatment and caring staff while relatives talked about well co-ordinated care. Not surprising really, except the chorus of complements (sic) followed the publication of an independent assessment of NHS Scotland considered “damning”. On one level it is hard to marry those cheering first hand insights, not to mention the 90 per cent satisfaction levels reported by the last official patient survey, with that report written by public spending watchdog Audit Scotland. The dichotomy certainly allowed political parties, and their most vocal supporters, to pick statistics which suited their cause and paint a picture that was either unfairly bleak or deceptively rosey (sic).’

Helen has correctly spotted the problem with correlating negative Audit Scotland reports and optimistic patient survey results. Patient survey results are reasonably useful and probably quite accurate because they are empirical. You can trust them, within reason. Here’s what I think of Audit Scotland’s methods:

‘The Audit Scotland report has not been able to find or use any empirical evidence representative of Scotland as a whole, to justify its negative conclusions. It relies far too heavily on a small number of selected case studies and interviews which are then not reliable nor are they triangulated with broader empirical data. AS seem over-concerned with planning documents which authorities charged with the actual tasks often produce largely to satisfy auditors. Further, AS has not used its resources to assess what is actually happening on the ground, across the country. Too detailed planning documents can stifle improvements and result in ineffective, but satisfying for auditors of course, tick-box exercises.’

I might know what I’m talking about here. I spent nearly 40 years in Higher Education assessing the quality of reports of all kinds. I had three years as Associate Dean QA responsible for formal evaluation of courses. I had 20 years as an external examiner for other universities. I know impressionistic waffle when I read it and I mark it down.

Returning to the headline, do the SNP actually make proud claims for NHS Scotland being particularly good?  Much to my annoyance at times, I’d say they’re scared to do so. There’s the occasional defensive comment from Nicola suggesting NHS Scotland is performing well compared to other parts of the UK bit that’s hardly controversial is it? I’ve never heard the SNP brag about keeping junior doctors on side. Have you?

Finally, back to the headline for this admitted pedant:

‘NHS Scotland – neither as bad as critics or as good as SNP claim’

That means that NHS Scotland’s health is not as bad as the general health of the critics is. Now I can’t speak for the personal health of any of the unnamed critics but I guess at least one will be in bad shape and thus in worse health than the whole of NHS Scotland? Maybe some commas would help? Furthermore, ‘complements’ when it should be ‘compliments’ and ‘rosey’ with an ‘e’? Funny ha ha too, that this is about health and when I noted these errors, I put the Latin ‘sic’ after them, as you do.

See me – Teacher.

Anyhow, well done Helen, keep taking the pills and hopefully full recovery will be yours!


4 thoughts on “NHS Scotland – neither as bad as critics or as good as SNP claim?

  1. Clydebuilt November 3, 2016 / 1:17 pm

    Don’t think Helen’s had a change of heart. I think the usual suspects have decided (recently), that a never ending diet of complaint, is ineffective. So they throw in the occasional slightly positive curved ball.

    Geeze I can see this post getting sent back full of red ink


  2. broadbield November 3, 2016 / 5:40 pm

    Who inspects the Inspectors, or audits the Auditors? Academics publish in peer-reviewed journals, as you remind us, so their methodology, analysis and conclusions are open to criticism. Where do the HMI or AS publish and who critiques them? Nowhere and nobody, I suspect. But then, isn’t it also a failure of government who set up these bodies to act without proper scrutiny?


    • johnrobertson834 November 4, 2016 / 7:37 am

      Exactly. But these people have risen above the need for scrutiny. How dare we question their omniscience?


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