Contrary to media distortion and massive increases in demand Scotland’s elderly care waiting times remain short


Guardian 6th February 2019

 In the last 20 years the number of over 75s has gone up by 31% and the number of over 65s by 28%. The impact on the demand for care can only be dramatic. This context does not appear in media reports.

The Age Concern Scotland ‘research’ reported today by nearly all of Scotland’s NoMedia and of course much loved by the Tory press in England headlines ‘waiting too long’ and ‘increasing waits’ but is seriously flawed. You won’t be surprised to hear that. Age Concern is a worthy campaigning group but not a reliable independent research centre.

I cannot access the original report so must use the media coverage. It was presumably sent directly to the MSM with a handy summary to use as the coverage. The flaws are nevertheless visible. From AOL’s slightly more revealing report:

‘The charity said more than 6,000 older people (43%) across the 14 local authorities who responded to its Freedom of Information request waited more than six weeks for the services they required. The average time to receive an assessment to determine social care needs was three weeks across Scotland but was higher in the Western Isles, Dundee, East Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Edinburgh, Falkirk, Midlothian, Moray and Perth and Kinross. Previous research conducted by Age Scotland found that in 2015 the average waiting time was two-and-a-half weeks. Those local authorities who provided reasons for delays cited service pressures such as increased demand and limited resources.’

First, there are 32 local authorities in Scotland so only 44% responded. On its own, this undermines any conclusions and they must be presented as qualified by that. They are not, of course, and we get unsustainable phrases like ‘Older people waiting too long for care’

Second, only 43% of those represented in the sample had waited more than six weeks. So, only around a quarter of the total population might be waiting for more than six weeks.

Third, these returns were made by staff working for local authorities run by political parties and not by independent researchers. The reporting does not tell us how many of the 14 local authorities are run by Labour or Conservative administrations.

Fourth, even if we accepted the research at face value, it’s main finding would be that average waiting times may have gone up from 2.5 weeks to 3 weeks.


Finally, if we again accept the Age Concern findings, where is the essential contextual background – change in demand? You can see in the graph above that even if there is a lengthening of the wait for care packages of 20% (from 2.5 to 3 weeks) this has been against a background of 20 years of increasing demand.

Without consideration of context, proper transparent methods and responsible wording of conclusions to take account of limitations, this research and, even more so the media coverage, are worthless.

And, for more context:









5 thoughts on “Contrary to media distortion and massive increases in demand Scotland’s elderly care waiting times remain short

  1. Legerwood May 28, 2019 / 9:45 am

    I saw the report about this in today’s Herald but my attention was caught by an article on stress etc in the Scottish Ambulance Service. The article was based on a survey carried out by Unison Scotland – nowhere did it say how many responded to the survey but there were lots of 80% of this, 65% of the next thing. The survey report is called “An Emergency but no accident” I have had a quick look at the report. Lots of pie charts etc but no where does it appear to indicate how many in the Ambulance service responded or how many people in total work in the Ambulance Service

    In short all of the criticisms you have made of the Care survey applied equally to the Unison Scotland Survey.

    Surveys such as these are appearing more and more frequently and are being used as nothing more than a lobbying tool by organisations with an axe to grind. They are not properly conducted pieces of research whose results can be used to inform and underpin policy decisions. The issues they cover are serious ones but deserve better than self-selecting surveys if they are to be properly addressed


      • Legerwood May 28, 2019 / 10:41 am

        Thought you might. They emailed their members if they had email addresses for them and put a link to the survey on the Scottish Ambulance web site.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Robert Graham May 28, 2019 / 10:58 am

    I guess there is a full team of dedicated civil servants beaveing away every day with one purpose ” DEFEND the UNION ” , the drip drip drip of outright propaganda is becoming a little boring to the ones who have woken up and can spot their antics .
    The only thing is a lot of dumb Scots will believe this tripe , I thought our fellow countrymen were more intelligent , but listening to a few folk I have doubts .

    Liked by 2 people

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