‘Honest, it was that big!’
The Herald and the STV trumpeted:
‘NHS ‘spends £38,000 a day on consultants’ overtime’
‘NHS spending £38,000 a day on consultants’ overtime’
In both cases the story had been largely researched and written by Lib Dem health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton. Both gave him space to have wee rant and to accuse the Scottish Government of a ‘chronically chaotic approach to workforce planning.’
Neither, of course, thought to tell us just how many consultants there are working in the Scottish NHS and how many vacancies need to be covered by overtime payments, to let us put this in a kind of useful context.
As of September 2017, there were 5 189.8 consultants working in NHS Scotland. Though there are still 430.5 vacancies still to be filled, the shortage fell in the last quarter by 9.6% and the annual overall number of consultants rose by 3.5%. Vacancy rates for consultants are also down from 8.3% in 2016 to 7.5% in 2017. More strikingly, consultant numbers have risen by 43.1% under the current government! To put that in context, overall NHS Scotland staffing has risen by 25.4% in the ten years of SNP administration. Does this look anything like Cole-Hamilton’s ‘chronically chaotic approach to workforce planning.’?
So, 430 vacancies out of more than 5 000 consultants and £38 000 spent per day to cover for them? That means, on average, just over £88 spent per day to cover more than 400 vacancies. It’s not exactly spendthrift is it?
Finally, to help the reader put this story in even more context by giving a better example of chaos, see this on the cost of private services:
In year 2015/16 NHS England spent £7 billion on private services. NHS Scotland spent £78.5 million. So, with 10 times the population to care for, NHS England spent nearly 100 times as much on private care. In 2016/17, NHS Scotland spending on private care fell again, to £72 million. The NHS figure for 2016/17 is not available but is expected to have risen even further.
Once more, Scotland’s mainstream journos write as if they’ve never had any proper training in the essential use of context to make their stories actually informative and to justify their often-made claim of being public watchdogs. More like establishment poodles, feart of a British bulldog?