*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.’
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.’
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.’
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.