Here is the headline:
STV: GPs are working ‘up to 89 hours per week’, survey finds
Of course, the headline has little basis in evidence.
Here’s a bit of the STV report to set the scene:
‘While three fifths (61%) of family doctors work 39 hours a week or less, there are 371 who are working at least 50 hours a week. This includes 296 GPs working 50 to 59 hours a week, 50 who are doing 60 to 69 hours a week, 21 working 70 to 79 hours and four who are working 80 to 89 hours. The figures were revealed by health secretary Shona Robison in response to questions from the Liberal Democrats.’
It’s the same old story of incomplete and unsubstantiated data used to create a dramatic yet at the same time, pathetic, headline in a desperate attempt to weaken the SNP. We don’t hear how many GPs were sampled, how the data was collected, what proportion of the sample responded or how the questions were worded. The reports are thus utterly inadequate for reaching the conclusion that general practice is in any sort of crisis.
I think, given that 371 reported working more than 39 hours per week and that 61% reported working 39 or less then the 371 represent 39% of the sample. If 371 GPs represent 39% then 9.5 GPs represent 1% of the sample and the total sample is thus 950.
There are around 4 900 GPs in Scotland and, so, the sample is 19.38% of the total number. As the survey is based on self-reporting of self-assessment of workload, this is highly subjective and only 1 in 5 GPs even bothered to respond. If the results were to be representative, of the profession as a whole, we’d need a better response rate.
Even if we were to accept the sample as valid and reliable, the 21 who reported working 80 to 89 hours, are only 2.2% of the sample of 950 and a tiny 0.4% of the total population of 4 900. This can be ignored as statistically insignificant. The same can be said of the 50 who reported working 60 to 69 hours. As for the 296 who reported working 50 to 59 hours, they represent only 31% of the self-selecting sample and only 6% of the total population.
Not in the reports, of course was any contextual information by which to judge the relative importance of the survey, such as these:
Also absent, was any comparative data such as this:
Scotland continues to have more GPs per head of population than any other part of the UK and the number of GPs has remained constant. The number of GPs in Scotland has remained at around 4 900 since 2008.
The latest figures for the number of GPs in the UK are:
- 41 985 GPs in England – last published in Sept 2016
- 4 953 GPs in Scotland (does not include locums) – last published Jan 2017 (350 locums in 2015)
- 2 887 GPs in Wales (includes 634 locums) – last published 30 Mar 2016
- 1 274 GPs in Northern Ireland (does not include locums) – last published Oct 2015
The number of locums in Scotland in 2015 was 350.
So, the ratio of GPs to overall population is:
- England 1 GP for every 1262 people
- Scotland 1 GP for every 999 people
- Wales 1 GP for every 1060 people
- N Ireland 1 GP for every 1421 people
Above figures are from the BMA’s General practice in the UK – background briefing 2017
Once we point out its general lack of scientific validity and failure to contextualise, the Lib Dem’s story is revealed for what it truly is – baseless scare-mongering.