BBC Scotland and BMA collude to produce a classic NHS scare story based on shoddy, unreliable, research


Six times this morning (and no doubt three time this evening on Reporting Scotland) we heard, headlined:

‘Doctors’ leaders are warning that the NHS in Scotland is being pushed to the brink!’

We’ve been here before, several times, with the BMA and BBC Scotland presenting unsound research findings to undermine the reputation of NHS Scotland and, by association, the SNP administration.

I’ll keep this short. Why is the BMA ‘research’ of little value in informing us about the true state of NHS Scotland?

  1. The BMA is a trades union, like Unite or the RMT. It’s ‘research’ is designed to produce results which it can use to campaign for more staff and more money, regardless of objective needs. Would an RMT survey of railway workers wanting more pay and resources be given comparable respect or prominence by BBC Scotland?
  2. We’re not able to see the wording of the questions used in the ‘research’. Leading questions are common in a partisan survey like this and completely invalidate the findings.
  3. The research sample was self-selecting. In such samples, typically, those with a grudge or with a negative disposition are more likely to respond. The results don’t tell you what the majority of doctors think.
  4. The research sample was small. There are around 13 000 doctors of various kinds in Scotland. The sample was 999 or 8% and not all responded.
  5. The BBC headline suggest ‘doctors’ leaders’ have issued the warning, yet only Dr McDivot and Dr Bennie of the BMA get a mention. Where are the leaders like, chairs of boards or university professors?
  6. The ‘Doctors’ leaders’ bit suggests authority and the need for particular respect. McDivot and Bennie are union leaders of the British Medical Association’s Scottish branch. I’ve had a wee search, but I can find no sign of either being a leading doctor. There’s no sign of awards for exceptional practice nor research publications presenting cutting-edge findings to move practice on nor is there even sign of them having managed anything much.

Given the above, BBC Scotland should:

  1. probably not be reporting such nakedly partisan and dodgy findings
  2. certainly not be headlining it all day
  3. if they must report it, mention the limitations.

Finally, there is considerable evidence (below) that NHS Scotland is performing pretty well despite the pressures. Could these have been reported?

Despite massive increases in demand, NHS Scotland maintains performance levels extremely close to the most rigorous of targets and patient satisfaction is at an all-time high. Audit Scotland say: ‘There were no significant weaknesses in the overall quality of care being provided.’

NHS Scotland A&E performance is more than 10% better than NHS England though BBC Salford mislead viewers by using wrong figure

NHS Scotland: 27% increase in kidney transplants including 10% increase from living donors as ‘UK’ level falls to eight-year low

Bed-blocking in NHS Scotland falls by nearly 10% in one year as the rate in NHS England surges to nearly 500% higher, per capita, than that in NHS Scotland!

National auditors find two very different NHS systems in the UK. Someone tell Theresa today.

NHS Scotland significantly outperforms NHS England on cancer waiting times despite demand soaring: Herald fails to report properly again

As already better-staffed NHS Scotland’s vacancies run at half the rate in England, ‘The extent of the [UK] Government’s failure to plan the NHS workforce is astonishing.’

‘NHS England cancelling operations at three times the rate in Scotland!’ or ‘With 10% of the population to care for, NHS Scotland cancels only 3.3% of NHS England operations cancelled in January’

NHS England ‘haemorrhaging’ nurses as 33 000 leave each year. NHS Scotland Nurse staffing increases.

‘NHS Compensation Claims in England four times higher than in Scotland!’ or Scotsman journalist fails professional test for lumping statistics and lack of context in report on NHS Scotland compensation

Putting the A&E figures in perspective: NHS England patients were more than twice as likely to wait over four hours throughout 2017.

NHS Scotland has massively increased staffing of consultants and acute medicine specialists under SNP administration. Try telling the Daily Excess.



16 thoughts on “BBC Scotland and BMA collude to produce a classic NHS scare story based on shoddy, unreliable, research

  1. stewartb June 26, 2018 / 10:19 am

    The degree of collusion in misrepresentation and the level of bias by omission being practised by BBC Scotland over NHS Scotland is now simply ‘ridiculous’ – the absence of rigour and objectivity in reporting would be laughable if it wasn’t so damaging and corrosive.

    Whatever the listening and viewing figures for BBC Scotland’s output may be in absolute terms, it still captures an audience whose attitudes and votes are important in Scotland. We cannot be complacent about the negative impact of its constant feed of ‘bad news’, its downbeat and downright negative ‘framing’ of our NHS. At the very least it holds back any momentum in building confidence in Scotland’s ability to govern itself effectively and efficiently whether under devolution or independence.


  2. Molloy Harry M June 26, 2018 / 10:19 am

    Listened to Graham Stewart on this mornings kaye Adams programme and sent complaining text. Response. Nothing I get so angry at this show and this guy is even worse than Kaye. I rarely listen for long as my blood pressure would peak well above my target.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. John June 26, 2018 / 10:40 am

    Heard it all on GMS , Dr . Peter Bennie covered a few points but a couple of things he said were a gift to BBC Scotland , and they have been repeating ever since . He said ,”the health service in Scotland has got worse over the last year ” , and ” you shouldn’t say Scotland is better than England because that is a low starting point ! .
    With their new generous contract with the Scottish Government under their belt ,which is more generous than in England , you would think the BMA in Scotland would at least try to be a bit more positive , but Peter Bennie never is , lets hope whoever takes his place is not another Dr . Doom !

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ludo Thierry June 26, 2018 / 12:42 pm

    Hopefully these 2 snippets of good news will assist the Scottish NHS to concentrate on core activities and not have to do so much ‘clearing up’ after self-damaging/societally damaging behaviours (multiple factors involved I realise). The heroin decrease info comes from bbeb Scotland site (doubtless through gritted teeth! – the reduction in offensive weapons use info from ScotGov news site:

    Heroin use in Scotland appears to be declining, according to official figures.

    The annual report of the Scottish Drugs Misuse Database (SDMD) suggests a particular decline among young users.

    Ten years ago, 58% of users under the age of 25 reported using heroin. That proportion has now fallen to 25%.

    And the figures indicate there has also been a drop in the number of users injecting drugs from 28% in 2006/7 to 18% in 2016/17.

    Crimes of handling of offensive weapons fell by more than two thirds over the last decade.

    There have been fewer convictions for handling offensive weapons and a fall in the number of emergency hospital admissions due to assault with a sharp object over the same period.

    The findings form part of Recorded Crime in Scotland: Handling Offensive Weapons, a new research report examining the characteristics of weapons-based crime recorded by the police. The paper expected to help inform further work to reduce violent crime.

    To this reader both of these reductions are indicative of a shift in the public psychology to a belief in a more optimistic and coherent future for all Scots.


  5. Alasdair Macdonald June 26, 2018 / 12:43 pm

    Since this is the 70th Anniversary of the NHS there is clearly an agenda in the broadcast media and in the right wing press that this popular institution which is an example of socialism in action has to be tarnished. The BBC Scotland farrago has to be seen in that context.

    Although they called the two spokespersons for the BMA ‘doctors’ leaders’ there was also an interview wit a Professor of Public Health who is head of the NHS in Scortand. He gave robust and articulate answers in an interview with Gary Robertson, which was conducted well. He made several of the points which you had made. He was NOT described as a ‘doctors’ leader!’

    There was also an interview with Mr Richard Leonard later in the programme. The Labour Party is having a celebration of the NHS. He was interviewed by Hayley Miller. This was one of the most appalling, rude, contemptuous, multiply interrupted interviews I have ever heard. She seemed to be working to a brief that had been issued by the private care homes organisation. At one question he was interrupted at least four times before he had got much beyond the first two words of his answer. It was as bad as anything that any SG minister has been subjected to.

    Later in the programme, in a piece about the third runway at Heathrow, she interviewed an SNP MP about the SNP abstaining, in which she used the phrase, ‘Is the SNP still in the huff?’

    This was unvarnished propaganda, apart from Gary Roberston’s interview.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. William Henderson June 26, 2018 / 12:44 pm

    The BBC web article on this contains these two paragraphs that don’t seem to match the headline:

    “Dr Bennie will say the NHS in Scotland has “not quite reached the dire working conditions and morale seen in England” however, he will warn “we are clinging by our fingertips from sliding down a similar path”.

    He will use his speech to welcome the fact the NHS in Scotland is not exposed to competition and privatisation, and to highlight “strong progress” in areas such as the new GP contract for Scotland.”

    Also, since the most recent count of GPs in Scotland comes in at about 5200, his statistics show that discontent has been expressed by, at most, about one GP in eight.

    This ‘news piece’ can only be construed as a deliberately contrived propaganda attack on the fabric of Scottish society.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Alasdair Macdonald June 26, 2018 / 12:47 pm

    PS I am getting ready to go on holiday and I realised that my medication would run out a few days before I am due to return home. (Some of us old codgers need a few medicines – all the more reason for the BBC to do scare stories). I phoned my GP surgery, went down and collected a prescritpion, took it to the pharmacy and had the drugs dispensed – an excellent service.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Contrary June 26, 2018 / 7:14 pm

    Hayley Millar on the radio IS atrocious eh? She should be banned from doing ‘interviews’, she behaves like an old fish wife (I’m guessing there isn’t such a job role anymore so I’m not insulting anyone?).

    GMS this morning was extreme – and I hardly caught any of it too:

    1. They repeatedly used the phrase ‘at breaking point’ to describe the Scottish NHS with no substantiation: AT breaking point means it is going to collapse imminently, not ‘it’s gonna be worse in ten years if something isn’t done’. Using that phrase in the news reports, THEN as the subject of their phone-in, is not balanced reporting. Also the phrase was contradictory the ‘may happen in ten years’ report, confusing people.

    2. The news reports said they were comparing the S-NHS to other health services, but I never caught any comparison to the English one (did you see the report that Virgin has successfully sued the English nhs for an awful lot of cash? Obviously wasn’t relevant.), and they picked and chose with no consistency in the comparisons that I could see.

    3. Interviewing someone from the survey (sorry, missed the very start, so didn’t catch who it was – maybe just someone that had analysed the findings?): she gave a minute or so of all the superior things the S-NHS are doing better than other health services (diabetes treatment, for instance, and quite a few more). Pause. Interviewer says, ‘but there must be plenty of areas where it is [doing far worse than] other health services?’ . Pause. The interviewee says ‘well, yes, in some areas…’ (Obviously shocked at this angle of questioning) – on which subject she was then asked numerous questions. So, no further enquiries to inform us of what is going well, but plenty of in depth extra information on stuff the S-NHS isn’t doing as well at IN COMPARISON ,,, to what? Do we know what the comparisons meant, were they top ranking health care in their fields? No context, no balance.

    4. The director of the S-NHS (did I hear that correctly?) was on the phone-in, and not once did he say that it was not AT breaking point. Who are these people? If he really is in charge of anything, he’s got to go, surely you need people that are looking at solutions? (Not being part of the problem).

    5. The guy doing the phone-in seemed to dismiss most positive calls, even one woman who wasn’t giving a particularly rosy view made some good suggestions about how the people in charge and doing admin should have knowledge of clinicians work, but this wasn’t deemed as worthwhile angle to pursue – perhaps because it was trying to find solutions instead of MOANING.

    It was a moan-fest. John, tell then to stop their constant WHINING about things that can be fixed, and start reporting the news, please. They gave us extensive coverage of the uk Parliament vote on heathrow, but couldn’t be bothered to report on the devastating vote to destroy devolution – which of these is really ‘in the public interest’? (Of Scotland)

    BBC Scotland is truly an embarrassment.

    Apologies for being so vague on names & exact phrasing, I have a terrible memory.

    Liked by 1 person

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