Based on a steady flow of free copy from the opposition parties, Scotland’s media have faithfully published a steady flow of distortion on the performance of easily the most effective NHS in the UK.
I’ve tackled several of them here already. See:
Herald and STV able to cut staffing after outsourcing their Health Correspondent role on a rotational basis to Labour and Tories. NHS Scotland spending 0.46% of budget on overtime while English nurses do it unpaid!
Today, we have these headlines from the Herald, Scotsman and STV:
‘Unfilled nursing and midwifery posts in NHS increase four-fold’
‘Nicola Sturgeon blamed as unfilled nursing jobs break records’
‘Huge increase in number of unfilled nursing posts’
The reports are filled with indignant quotes from, especially, Labour, and out-of-date statistics but none of the contextual information by which we might be able to properly understand the situation.
First, see the actual situation with regard to the current trend in staffing in the chart above and the one below:
Note the overall upward trend in the first and the steady climb in staffing numbers, 5.6% in Nursing and the stable number in midwifery.
Second, how well-staffed is NHS Scotland in the first place? I know, some don’t like these comparisons when they show Scotland in a favourable light, but they love them when it’s otherwise. Comparisons between countries do have their limitations but they do help us put our statistics into context and scale.
How many nurses are there in Scotland? Well, in Nursing, excluding Midwifery, there were 56 468.2 FTE in September 2017.
In NHS England, the Kings Fund state:
‘The number of nursing staff (nurses and health visitors) has increased by 1.8 per cent from 281,064 FTEs in 2010 to 286 020 FTEs in 2017.’
The UK Government site says:
‘There were 314,966 Nurses & health visitors, an increase of 2,790 (0.9%) since 2014. There were 281,474 FTE Nurses & health visitors, an increase of 2,494 (0.9%) since 2014.
So, Scotland with only 10% of England’s population, has 19% of the number of nurses or nearly twice as many per head of population.
Third, how do the vacancy rates compare? On 22nd February the Independent wrote, based on official figures releases:
‘More than 100,000 NHS posts unfilled, reveal ‘grim’ official figures: Quarterly data released by regulator NHS Improvement today, for the year to December, shows the 234 NHS trusts in England “employ 1.1 million whole-time-equivalent staff but that they have 100,000 vacancies”. Health service bosses are saying the findings are “extremely worrying” and a sign of “astonishingly bad planning”.’
So, compared to 9-10% vacancies in England what are the levels in Scotland? Well there is no global figure but for nursing and midwifery, it’s 4.5% and for consultants, it’s 7.7%.
In response, the Scottish Government has increased training of nurses by 3.2% and doctors by 1.9%.
If we have a significantly better ratio of nurses to population and a significantly lower rate of vacancies, might we be in quite good shape?
Scottish Labour has been quite explicit about its intention to ‘weaponise’ the NHS in anticipation of an election. See this from the Scotsman, yesterday:
‘The party says it will deploy hundreds of activists to target seats in Glasgow today, seeking to capitalise on months of damaging news on the NHS. The blitz [sic] is the latest in a new tactic across the UK under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, targeting national resources outside of election periods at marginal seats, using local messages. Similar NHS-based campaigns are expected across Scotland in the coming months, with Labour preparing for another early election.’
It’s clear that though they have the facts to work with in England, they’re going to have to rely heavily on the Scottish media to make their lack of meaningful facts irrelevant here. The recent flurry of dodgy reports across the Scottish media, suggests that they can rely on them. We must make sure we use social media as intensively as we can to counter their propaganda and dispense with the kind of pointless navel-gazing and own-foot-shooting we see from Common Space:
When I saw the above, I just thought WTF! Use your energy and time to attack the Union, will you? Attack! Attack!