Glasgow Herald ‘racks up’ another NHS scare story


In the Herald today:

‘Scots mental health units rack up one injury every hour as figures reveal toll of assaults, burns and falls. Mental health units in Scotland are racking up an injury every hour among patients, staff and visitors, figures reveal. Over the past three years, psychiatric facilities recorded an average of 24 incidents a day. These ranged from assaults and accidents such as falls and trips, to substance abuse and issues with absconding and patient transport.’

One every hour? OMG that must a crisis! We better report it….in the public interest of course. Should we cheat a bit by calling all incidents, including trips and running away, ‘injuries’ in the headline? Go on. No one will notice.

Should we mention how many people aren’t ‘injured’ every hour? No? It’s not necessary?

It is quite difficult to say how many patients, staff and visitors there are in mental health units on a typical day.

However, we can say there were 3 572 inpatients being treated in NHS Scotland facilities at the March 2017 Census.

and, there were around 1 200 psychiatric and psychology staff;

and there should’ve been around 500 registered nurses;

and, based admittedly on my own visits, at least the same number of nursing assistants.

That would give something like 4 700 staff and patients but not counting drivers, catering staff and any others not mentioned. What about visitors? I know many mental health patients get none but say 1 300? So, 5 000 patients, staff and visitors as a conservative estimate?

OK, every hour an ‘injury’. Let’s use that 1/5 000 ratio to generate some headlines:

‘1 in 5 000 mental health patients, staff or visitors may have been assaulted, fallen, run away or burnt themselves every hour.’

‘0.02% of mental health patients, staff or visitors may have been assaulted, fallen, run away or burnt themselves every hour.’

Now those will have the SNP worried.



9 thoughts on “Glasgow Herald ‘racks up’ another NHS scare story

  1. Alasdair Macdonald. July 21, 2018 / 1:53 pm

    Another good debunking.

    As your headline has highlighted, clearly Ms McArdle (or the subeditor, if they still have such people) thinks that the word “rack” and variants has a negative impact, with overtones of medieval torture.

    It is another, I suggest, wilful, misuse of statistics, by lumping together every kind of recordable accident, and, by preceding, with words like ‘toll’ and ‘assaults’, ‘falls’ and ‘trips’ an unpleasant spin is created. Falls and trips, I imagine, will probably, comprise the majority of accidents recorded, as they do in every workplace and public institution.

    The loaded word is ‘assaults’. Staff and others in mental health units, alas, do suffer assaults from time to time, because people suffering from mental distress can and do, on occasion, lash out. While good staff training can minimise the probability of a patient reacting violently, it cannot eliminate it. Staff are aware that an assault is a possibility when they enter this line of work. They are taking a calculated risk when they decide to do such work. I am not, of course, blaming them if they are assaulted. They must be afforded adequate care immediately after.

    The number of ‘assaults’ would be identified in the data, and, I suspect, it will be the lowest number of any category. Your order of magnitude calculation suggests that around 0.02% of all people in mental hospitals/units have an accident each hour. The rate of assault is probably less than 0.0002%.

    PS on the BBC Scotland site there is a report that the painting works associated with the Forth Crossing will take another 17 months to complete. The entire tenor of the report is of a cavilling nature, entirely consistent with the carping nature of coverage since before the bridge opened. The bulk of the work to be done relates to the underside of the road deck. I suspect that the contracted work schedule took account of this and that the 17 months was allowed for. The key issue was to have the bridge open so that traffic could pass safely and that important work like this painting could continue beyond the opening date without causing interruptions to flow. Snidely, the article, refers to the closures and restrictions that have taken place overnight and at quiet periods for routine repairs and snagging as if it is the only transport facility which has to have such things occurring regularly.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Stuart Mcnicoll July 22, 2018 / 2:19 pm

      The Forth Bridge(rail) wasn’t actually finished until 2011, from 1890 onwards the bridge basically a team of painters start at one end and work their way over, when finished, they started again. Only when a new paint was developed was the practice stopped. I think we can safely blame successive Labour and Tory governments for the delays.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. gavin July 21, 2018 / 1:54 pm

    They also ran two stories about prison violence in Glenochil and Peterhead from 30 years ago. Thankfully prisons in Scotland are fairly peaceful these days. Too peaceful for the Heralds lurid headline writers, perhaps.
    Daan Saff, under a Tory government, the prison regime for prisoners and staff, is a little different in comparison to Scotland, but that isn’t of any interest to The Herald “journalism”!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. exile July 21, 2018 / 2:01 pm

    I’ve commented before , to thank you for your brilliant work on this site; and another “thanks” from me is overdue. I hope your articles keep your spirits up – they do mine. And thanks also for giving links to previous articles. Best wishes to you and yours!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. zander July 22, 2018 / 6:22 pm

    original 106 radio had this on its news, with the usual tory msp mouth saying what a disgrace

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Gerry Robertson July 24, 2018 / 6:36 pm

    Rubbish we know but still it is worth doing as it all goes into the melting pot of bad stories just to emphasize to Joe public that if they did not already know the country is in total disarray and we know who to blame for that?


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