‘UK’ research misleads on operation cancellations in Scotland
In the Independent today, the headline:
‘One in seven major operations in UK cancelled on day of surgery, data shows’
suggested the usual Anglo-centric journalism conflating figures for England with the UK. One in seven is 14.3%. However, the article was reporting on an apparently UK-wide snapshot of cancellations in one-week in the Spring 2018 period:
‘Their study is published in the wake of a record winter crisis where in the first three months of 2018, 25,475 operations were cancelled on the day they were scheduled to take place in England alone (!) – the highest since records began. This is despite hospitals being told [in England] to pre-emptively cancel thousands of non-urgent operations to minimise same-day cancellations and focus resources on urgent cases. For their research the RCA and UCL compiled data from an unparalleled 93 per cent of hospitals in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and built a seven-day snap shot of surgeries that took place between 21 and 27 March.’
No breakdown of the figures for England, N Ireland, Scotland and Wales is offered. I’ve found accessing such increasingly difficult with researchers telling me there were no significant differences between the four areas but not being willing to release them. Hmmm.
Operations cancellations in Scotland
Direct comparisons cannot be made but, as you can see in the above chart, cancellations for non-clinical capacity reasons, in Spring 2018, had peaked at just over 4% and were beginning to fall to around 1.5%.
In the absence of a breakdown, I am limited in what can be concluded but, given the comparatively very low figures for Scotland, based on actual data recorded by the hospitals and the relatively small proportion of UK hospitals located in the UK as a whole (8%), it seems most unlikely that this research has much relevance for us.
Perhaps one of the most telling facts is that Scottish hospitals were not instructed to pre-emptively cancel thousands of non-urgent operations in this period. See:
However, elderly Telegraph readers in Scotland [lots going by my local newsagent] saw this:
‘NHS hospitals ordered to cancel all routine operations in January as flu spike and bed shortages lead to A&E crisis
Every hospital in the country (sic)* has been ordered to cancel all non-urgent surgery until at least February in an unprecedented step by NHS officials.
The instructions on Tuesday night – which will see result in around 50,000 operations being axed – followed claims by senior doctors that patients were being treated in “third world” conditions, as hospital chief executives warned of the worst winter crisis for three decades.’
- Another use of ‘sic’ in a medical context!