Were they cancelled operations or really just postponed operations? Were there a lot or not-a-lot? BBC Scotland’s merciless context-free campaign of words against NHS Scotland and the SNP Government’s management of it continues unabated

30th January 2017

‘NHS Grampian says it cannot confirm when new dates will be given to patients for cancelled (sic) operations. The Health Board has postponed more than 100 procedures since the beginning of November 2016.’ (Reporting Scotland, 26.1.17)

We then heard, via Ruth Davidson (a Tory like the ones actually running NHS England into the ground), the case of a prostate cancer patient where ‘further surgery has been cancelled.’

First, let’s deal with the language. Have these procedures been cancelled or merely postponed? See this:

‘To cancel:

Donedead, or dusted. To withdraw an offer. InvalidatedTerminated.

 To postpone:

To cause or arrange for (an event) to take place at a time later than the time at which it was originally supposed to happen.’


Does anyone really believe that any of these procedures have actually been cancelled or is that just a better word to use if you want to exaggerate and to scare the viewers? Is it also (see above definitions) a lie? Remember this is the BBC, with a Royal Charter to inform and not the Daily Mail. So, Reporting Scotland, was this another scare attempt or just shoddy uneducated journalism. You tell me.

Second, NHS Grampian cannot (yet) tell these patients when their not-really-cancelled operations will be carried out. Is that really too long a time? How many other operations will they have to fit the roughly 100 postponed ones around (around 19 000?)? See below on this.

Third, were any of these operations urgent (life-threatening)? In November 2016, alone, NHS England ‘cancelled’ 446 urgent operations. We must assume the Grampian cases were not urgent or BBC Reporting Scotland would surely have put the word in the headline to make it even ‘better’ as a tabloid headline


Fourth, there is also evidence of shoddy or uneducated journalism from the Misreporting Scotland team. The report had no context but only personalisation. First year journalism students learn that good professional journalism can have the latter to interest the viewer but must also have the former so that the viewer can put the figures in context. Is this postponed prostate case one of many or just the only one? Are more than 100 procedures in roughly 100 days a lot or not a lot? The viewer has a right to know and the BBC with its Royal Charter has a responsibility to inform them. I can’t find out how many procedures in total, NHS Grampian did since November so I’m going to have to do some arithmetic and estimation. I accept the limitations in this but if BBC Scotland won’t put things in context, I must do what I can.

‘Official NHS England figures show about 7.7 million planned operations were carried out in England last year (2015/2016).’


Scotland has almost exactly one tenth of England’s population so NHS Scotland did 770 000 planned operations? NHS Grampian has almost exactly one tenth of Scotland’s population so did 77 000 planned operations? In a quarter, that would be 19 000 planned operations? More than 100 were postponed in one quarter? If it was much more than 100 the BBC would have said so – 110? 110 out of 19 000 postponed operations is 0.58%? Is that a crisis? If a reader can get me the actual number of ‘procedures’ carried out in that or a typical quarter for NHS Grampian, I’ll adapt the figures.

Fifth, here’s another bit of context – NHS England:

‘During the quarter ending 30th September 2016, 19,399 operations were cancelled at the last minute (previous or same day) for non-clinical reasons by NHS providers.’


England has ten times Scotland’s population so I’m going to estimate again and suggest that would be like 1900 postponed at the last minute in a quarter. So for NHS Grampian, that would be 190 postponed at the last minute in a quarter. Again, if any of those had been cancelled, ‘at the last minute’ might Reporting Scotland have fitted that in somewhere too? I think so.


‘Tens of thousands of operations were cancelled by English hospitals last year but not officially counted, figures obtained by the BBC suggest. Official NHS England figures show about 7.7 million planned operations were carried out in England last year (2015/2016). There were 71,370 last-minute cancellations – either on the day the patient was meant to arrive, after they had arrived or on the day the operation was meant to take place. So that’s about four times the figures officially reported by NHS England above.’


If there was even a sniff of this malpractice in NHS Scotland or just NHS Grampian, do you think Reporting Scotland would have been all over it?

Finally that was Reporting Scotland’s sixteenth ‘scare story’ about the NHS in Scotland since January 4th 2017. If I was even older and even more sickly, I’d be scared witless of going anywhere near a hospital. Think about that BBC Scotland. Viewers of BBC News at 6 will of course have seen evidence of a real crisis or as the Red Cross put it, ‘a humanitarian crisis’.

So that’s another undergraduate BA journalism fail, Reporting Scotland, for not using context and a big disgusted sigh for everything else in the report.


12 thoughts on “Were they cancelled operations or really just postponed operations? Were there a lot or not-a-lot? BBC Scotland’s merciless context-free campaign of words against NHS Scotland and the SNP Government’s management of it continues unabated

  1. Bryan Weir January 30, 2017 / 12:39 pm

    My concern is that they know people like you are onto them yet they continue to spread their lies. That is a concern because it is surely an indication that they know they have nothing to worry about. They are not accountable to anyone.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. johnrobertson834 January 30, 2017 / 12:43 pm

    I’m preaching to the converted mainly but must hope for one or two new ones with each post?


  3. broadbield January 30, 2017 / 1:42 pm

    One thing that worries me is how the BBC seems to regard itself as a kind of watchdog of the Public Interest, but in a highly selective manner in choosing those issues which it “watches” and how it reports them.

    Does it have a mandate for this, who decides that they well scrutinise the NHS (in Scotland) for example and for what reasons and why they will scrutinise only the “problems”; what is the professional expertise of those involved and why don’t they apply the same relentless examination to, for example, MP’s interests, tax-avoidance or the effect of the UK budget on child poverty?

    It’s time the BBC answered some important questions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • johnrobertson834 January 30, 2017 / 3:09 pm

      It’s an agenda. Do no harm to the Union. Do as much as you can to the idea of independence. Notably BBC England often help us by attacking the Tory government. As long as people watch through from 6 to 7 they must begin to get the idea Unionbaaaad.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hugh Wallace January 30, 2017 / 2:39 pm

    Another anecdote here John: I had an operation ‘cancelled’ by NHS Grampian back in 2014. When I say ‘cancelled’ I mean that my routine, non-emergency operation had to be put off to allow some more critical cases to be dealt with. My surgeon was very helpful and asked one of his colleagues if he could ‘squeeze me in’ the next day, which s/he did. Most put out I was. I missed breakfast two days in a row with having to be nil-by-mouth in preparation for the anesthetic. I’m not going to say that the treatment I received throughout my time under NHS Grampian’s care was faultless or without issue, but a crisis it was not.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Willie John January 30, 2017 / 6:28 pm

    The other side of the coin. I attended Glasgow Royal for an angiogram (camera into the thigh to have a look at the arteries). Afterwards the surgeon told me I required a quad bypass, and they write to tell me when it would be done. He incidentally asked where I was from and about travelling. When I told him that I had to fly he told me I couldn’t, and disappeared to speak to someone else. When he came back he had booked me in for five days later to be operated on. That was seventeen years ago, and in that time I have been able to fly thousands of miles all over the globe. I have every reason to be grateful to our NHS, and those who work there, and I get so angry when I hear of the kind of reports you have highlighted here.

    Liked by 3 people

    • johnrobertson834 January 30, 2017 / 9:34 pm

      Thanks WJ for this memory. I too have only gratitude for the treatment I’ve had and it does make me angry to see them regularly disrespected.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Contrary January 30, 2017 / 8:18 pm

    Thank you John, another excellent exposé. Listening to radio Scotland this morning, they were discussing fake-news and how terrible social media sites were because the news could not be relied upon, unlike on the honourable media outlets, like newspapers and the BBC. I was aghast at the bare-faced hypocrisy, not an ounce of shame as they presented this. They are using the fake news nonsense to imply their own trustworthiness, and I wonder how far they will take it.

    I did not search out any independently-minded websites until last year, after the EU referendum – I was suspicious of the timing (straight after Scottish Parliament election, just before the Chilcot report) as a way of obscuring the trident debate/ vote in parliament – so had to search harder on the Internet because trident was barely mentioned. I believe Westminster is a cesspit of corruption, so did not need independence supporting websites to convince me they should not be running anything, but the websites/blogs offer great insight. I could not watch BBC news after the way they reported what they supposed was a ‘terrorist attack’ in Germany anyway, then watching London Calling after that, and then finding your website has been a real eye-opener for me. So, maybe you are preaching to the converted, but only recently converted in my case! I still believed that the BBC did have some integrity before.

    Oh yes, and because I hadn’t seen so much coverage of a presidential election before, I immediately wondered what they were covering up for there,,, da-dah, it was the debate/vote on the ‘snoopers charter’. Still not sure what the inauguration coverage was covering up for…

    Liked by 3 people

  7. johnrobertson834 January 30, 2017 / 9:24 pm

    Thanks Contrary for your kind comments. You make a very perceptive point about BBC hypocrisy about fake news. Or, do they actually believe in themselves. What Sartre called bad faith.


  8. Private February 3, 2017 / 12:14 am

    My husband has prostate cancer. He was booked into Aberdeen Royal Infirmary for a life-saving prostatectomy on 10 Jan. He went in on 9 Jan and was talked through the procedure and prepared for the surgery. Next morning his consultant told him the op had to be cancelled due to a lack of high dependency beds. Another patient who was due for the same operation that day also had his op cancelled.

    So, no, the prostate case mentioned is not the only one. My husband has not spoken to any media or politicians so his is not the case mentioned by Ruth Davidson. His operation is to be re-scheduled but he has no date at present because the crisis situation in ARI continues. In the meantime we have the worry that his cancer may be spreading. So, yes, operations are being cancelled, not just postponed. If I book a flight and that flight is cancelled, the flight is not postponed. I have to book another flight.

    If anything, BBC Scotland is pulling its punches. NHS Grampian is straining at the seams. To pretend this is not the case helps no one. Health is too important to be treated as a political football.


    • johnrobertson834 February 3, 2017 / 8:16 am

      I’m sorry to hear about this. I hope a new date is arranged soon. I do agree with your last line because that’s what I feel BBC Scotland has been doing.


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