Update: BBC analysis wrong? Scotland’s A&E departments infinitely better than those in non-Scottish parts yet BBC Scotland pounce on stats like a starved rat

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(c) pinterest

*See update from Legerwood below

From BBC Scotland today:

‘A key target for accident and emergency waiting times has not been met for a year, official figures show. The Scottish government’s benchmark for 95% of A&E patients to be either admitted, transferred or discharged in four hours was last met in the week ending 30 July 2017.’

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It’s true. The last time was week-ending 30th July 2017 when performance hit 95.5% of patients seen within 4 hours. BBC Scotland didn’t do this story last week or for most of June and July because the target had been met several times in those months in 2017. Indeed, this is the first opportunity in years! How frustrating that must have been. Imagine the drool as they watched and waited. How long had they been there, dripping hungrily in the long grass?

Of course, context is absent from their report, so we can’t really ask the question, ‘How bad is this?’, compared to performance elsewhere. Failure to meet targets might be bad or it might mean the targets are very high and aspirational. If they had been set cynically low for narrow political purposes, then they would have been easier to achieve.

The BBC seems to value context. See this from 2014:

‘What this shows is that while data is a useful way for journalists to access – and tell – stories, raw data alone will not suffice. Both context and analysis remain vitally important. Publishers overlook these elements at their peril.’

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/collegeofjournalism/entries/0408b877-8a7b-341e-9201-6b7907e6a628

So, why didn’t BBC Scotland have a quick look at the performance of our nearest neighbour, NHS England? Is this the answer?

‘The NHS in England says it will not this year hit the key target for treating or assessing 95% of patients in hospital Accident and Emergency departments within four hours. In a speech in March 2017, Mr Hunt said: “it is absolutely essential that we do get back to the 95% target” and he expected it to happen “in the course of the next calendar year”.  Yet now NHS England is talking in its planning guidance document of its “expectation” that the government would “roll forward” its goal.  It states that the majority of hospitals will only achieve the 95% standard by March 2019, with the NHS overall reaching that rate later in the year.’

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-42943232

Who thinks they will make it by March 2019 as overseas workers flee Brexit Britain?

Finally, what was the average performance in the last year? An obvious and easy bit of context to provide surely? BBC Scotland don’t tell us. It won’t be published because it’s not a regular census point. It’s just the one BBC Scotland have been waiting excitedly for a long time. I can’t find it without adding all 52 scores up and dividing by…? Come on BBC Scotland! I’m not doing it but I’m guessing it’s above 90% and so, not much use in doing NHS Scotland down.

*Update from Legerwood July 29, 2018 / 3:57 pm

This is from the BBC News-Scotland: “”The Scottish government’s benchmark for 95% of A&E patients to be either admitted, transferred or discharged in four hours was last met in the week ending 30 July 2017.””

This may only true if you look at the WEEKLY figures BUT it is not true if you look at the more accurate monthly figures for A&E waiting times.

In the month ending 31st July 2017 the figure was 95.7%. In the month ending 31st August 2017 the figure was 95% From September 2017 to November 2017 the figures ranged from 93.3% to 94.4% per month. From Dec 2017 up to and including May 2018, the last month for which monthly figures are available, the percentage of patients seen and treated within the 4 hour deadline ranged from 85.2% to 93.1%. Remember those months include the flu outbreak, lots of freezing weather and the Beast from the East.

If the monthly figures for May 2017 and June 2017 are included then you get 94% and 95.5% respectively. Therefore for the year from May 2017 to May 2018 there were 3 months when the figures were 95% or better.

The figures come from the Information Services Division (Scotland). Although A&E FIGURES are published weekly the monthly figures are usually more accurate because they include and delayed or adjusted figures.

http://www.isdscotland.org/Health-Topics/Emergency-Care/Publications/index.asp?#2198

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11 thoughts on “Update: BBC analysis wrong? Scotland’s A&E departments infinitely better than those in non-Scottish parts yet BBC Scotland pounce on stats like a starved rat

  1. Contrary July 29, 2018 / 10:35 am

    I am not so sure NHS England will make those targets, though maybe they can at the expense of patient safety, see this newspaper article:

    NHS England standards fall
    http://archive.is/fcQDx

    It is archived, so I must have picked it up from someone on WoS (sorry about forgetting who!).

    I am not sure of the full meaning of the article – they use comparison percentatages, but many of the actual numbers appear to be small (thank goodness) (though one is too many for a ‘serious incident’), but because we hardly hear about England-bad news, it is interesting. John, maybe you can make sense/use of the numbers given? Do we have comparable figures for nhs Scotland? Can’t have, the BBC would have jumped on it before now if there were.

    Like

    • johnrobertson834 July 29, 2018 / 1:32 pm

      Thanks. Had a look at this but couldn’t find directly comparable stats for NHS Scotland.

      Like

  2. Alasdair Macdonald July 29, 2018 / 11:28 am

    The A&E story is still the lead on the BBC Scotland Politics page with the Tory ‘dark money’ at number 2.

    When I opened the BBC site, the front page led with a piece about changes in the weather ahead. It was illustrated with a photograph of umbrellas. Fair enough, since, more rain is expected …… but, all of the umbrellas, all five of them were UNION JACK umbrellas. I have not seen so many union jacks since I returned last week from East Belfast.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Contrary July 29, 2018 / 11:53 am

      Haha! Union Jack umbrellas?! Excellent! Wow, I think that just proves that it won’t rain in an independent Scotland 😀 (because the uk must be responsible for the dark foreboding clouds)

      Except I actually like a wee bit of rain, and less heat. Nice to have a bit of sunshine mind you, but I guess our weather is never going to be consistent and predictable.

      On the surface, having the Tory dark money scandal at no.2 looks impressive, but forgive my scepticism in thinking it might be because the Tories are getting their cover-up in order now? Obviously the missing targets out of context of the whole is a more important story, though.

      Whatever did happen to the investigation into anomalous results in the postal votes for the first independence referendum? Was that ever taken further?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Bryan Weir July 29, 2018 / 12:23 pm

    Sunday Mail editorial repeating this “story”.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Legerwood July 29, 2018 / 3:57 pm

    This is from the BBC News-Scotland: “”The Scottish government’s benchmark for 95% of A&E patients to be either admitted, transferred or discharged in four hours was last met in the week ending 30 July 2017.””

    This may only true if you look at the WEEKLY figures BUT it is not true if you look at the more accurate monthly figures for A&E waiting times.

    In the month ending 31st July 2017 the figure was 95.7%. In the month ending 31st August 2017 the figure was 95% From September 2017 to November 2017 the figures ranged from 93.3% to 94.4% per month. From Dec 2017 up to and including May 2018, the last month for which monthly figures are available, the percentage of patients seen and treated within the 4 hour deadline ranged from 85.2% to 93.1%. Remember those months include the flu outbreak, lots of freezing weather and the Beast from the East.

    If the monthly figures for May 2017 and June 2017 are included then you get 94% and 95.5% respectively. Therefore for the year from May 2017 to May 2018 there were 3 months when the figures were 95% or better.

    The figures come from the Information Services Division (Scotland). Although A&E FIGURES are published weekly the monthly figures are usually more accurate because they include and delayed or adjusted figures.

    http://www.isdscotland.org/Health-Topics/Emergency-Care/Publications/index.asp?#2198

    Like

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