Still more than 90% of NHS Scotland operations carried out on time despite winter pressures

cancellations graph

Note: This graph is drawn, looking only at cancellations, ignoring more than 90% of operations and so, exaggerates the peaks and troughs. Look at how tightly packed the two scales are to enable changes of only 0.5% to be visible. If the left-hand scale had to include 0 to 100% and/or if the bottom scale had to only cover say, one year, these peaks and troughs would be stretched out and visually flattened so that much that you might look at them and think that the same data suggests only very minor changes.

Here’s what Reporting Scotland had to say:

‘Almost 3 000 planned operations were cancelled last November according to new health figures. That’s a rise of 6.8% compared to the same period in 2017/18. More than a third of the call-offs were made for non-clinical reasons.’

  1. Note that almost two-thirds (996) of the 2 907 (‘almost 3 000’) operations were cancelled by patients themselves or by doctors because, in the latter case, they were no longer considered a good idea for the health of the patient.
  2. Note the rounding-up to get the headline ‘3 000’ figure and the potential confusion when we see that 996 is ‘less than a third’ of the headline figure
  3. Note the use of ‘more than a third’ despite the tiny statistical difference between 3.4% (‘more than’) and 3.333% (‘one third’).



6 thoughts on “Still more than 90% of NHS Scotland operations carried out on time despite winter pressures

  1. annraynet January 4, 2019 / 12:13 pm

    Difficult to tell exactly because the graph is so squeezed but it looks to me as if the average of 3.4% (‘more than a third’) is only as high as that because of the two peaks in Dec ’17 and March ’18. Otherwise the results are mostly between 2 and 2.5%, which could be interpreted as less than a quarter. There may have been significant factors causing the two higher figures, such as seasonal factors, which are regularly used to excuse problems in NHS England.
    Why do they not compare the figures with ‘cancelled by patient’, which appear to be much higher.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Legerwood January 4, 2019 / 2:04 pm

    December 2017 figures would be affected by the flu season which was kicking off about then.
    March 2018 it was the beast from the East that affected the number of ops that were cancelled.
    The recent increase in the latest figures was down to the temporary closure of the instrument cleaning/sterilisation plant in Glasgow. This resulted in a large number of cancellations in the Greater Glasgow Health Board area.

    ISD Scotland who are responsible for collating and reporting on all manner of things in NHS Scotland publish their reports every Tuesday on their web site.

    Liked by 1 person

    • annraynet January 4, 2019 / 6:05 pm

      Thanks for that clarification, Legerwood. I suspected as much but did not have time to do the research.


  3. Alasdair Macdonald January 4, 2019 / 7:50 pm

    A pedant writes: one third is 33.3333% or 0.3333.


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