Friday, January 29, 2010

Burying Bad News on NHS Waiting Times

Whenever there's amajor political event, you always need to watch what government press office put out. And true to form, today the Department of Health is trying to bury bad news. At 10.06am an email dropped into my Inbox with the alluring headline

STATISTICAL PRESS NOTICE - NHS INPATIENT AND OUTPATIENT WAITING TIMES FIGURES - 31st December 2009

I nearly didn't bother to look, but suspicion got the better of me. It turns out that patient waiting times have increased dramatically in 2009.

  • The number of inpatients, for whom English commissioners are responsible, waiting over 13 weeks at the end of December 2009 was 57,600, an increase of 12,300 (27.3%) from November 2009, and a rise of 18,000 (45.3%) from December 2008.
  • The number of outpatients, for whom English commissioners are responsible, waiting over 8 weeks at the end of December 2009 was 74,100, an increase of 11,700 (18.8%) from November 2009, but a rise of 26,900 (57.0%) from December 2008.

Shouldn't the press release have been headlined...

Labour Increases NHS Waiting Times by 50%?


UPDATE: The Dept of Health has been in touch to deny this is burying bad news. They say that these figures always come out on the last Friday of the month.

26 comments:

Painfully Liberal said...

I also notice that Harry Cohen is making a personal statement to the House about his expenses today.

TrickyTree said...

So the Department for Health press civil service press office decided to bury bad news, and did this by cunningly forwarding a whole set of damning statistics that make the Government look bad to a high-profile Conservative blogger? Along with a press release that picks out the highlights?

I'm no expert in the dark arts, but I'm sure there are better ways to "bury" things.

Iain Dale said...

Tricky, no, you clearly aren't an expert. This email wasn't sent to me as an individual. I get all government departmental press releases as a matter of course.

Doh.

strongholdbarricades said...

We must look on the bright side

Hopefully these statistics are figured into bonuses that could be awarded to those working in the NHS

Anonymous said...

Awful numbers Iain. At least you got it right and said this figure applied to England and not to "Britain" as the Tory party are always trying to pretend.

Remember that disgraceful announcement on NHS policy from Con Central recently ?
They used the word "Britain" 5 times, "UK" twice and "this country" 3 times and all the time it was about the English NHS only, though they tried to pass it off as somehow British. The word England never appeared.

Devious,lying sods. Probably how they intend to go on and not even elected yet.

Salmondnet said...

Anonymous at 10.52 provides an opening shamelessly to plug the Power 2010 vote on constitutional issues at http://www.power2010.org.uk/votes/index-2

There you can vote, amongst other things, on English Votes for English Laws, and thus political recognition for England.

The Guardian has already publicised this vote. Don't leave it all to the left.

Gallimaufry said...

But it's a global waiting list that started in America and besides the Tories would close every hospital etc... cut to appropriate length for soundbite.

Anonymous said...

Shocking news on the extra waiting in the NHS.When the Conservatives get in they must make sure that these waiting times come down a.s.a.p,the extra money they have pledged for the NHS should do this.

Anonymous said...

It all started in America, Bush was too blame, name the guilty bankers...

Demetrius said...

This one may not emerge for a little while but given how busy our local crematorium is I suspect that like last winter deaths are up again. I think the figures for the 2008/2009 winter came out during a recess of Parliament.

Just Wonderful said...

Should make PMQ's an nice easy session for the PM next week. I bet he's practicing his non-answers on this subject already. Cameron has to hit this one and hit it hard. Bad news on one of Labour's central priorities is going to be tough to spin for the government.

Redbridge Blue said...

I presented with an ankle injury in April 2009. On the 18th February I am having a "splint" fitted, 10 months from GP to trial solution; Probably 18 mths to the required operation.

A chat with the consultant rvealed that this is deliberate financial health rationing, and it is going to get worse.

Throwing moneya t a drunk makes him more drunk. Throwing money at an innefficient NHS makes it more inefficient.

judith said...

Hi Redbridge Blue - did you notice that the questionnaire about 'reconfiguring' health services in North East London is headlined "Delivering high-quality hospital services for the people of north east London"?

To which the immediate response is "Does not apply if you live in Redbridge, Barking or Dagenham", since the District General Hospital in Redbridge is going to be downgraded to clinic status.

TrickyTree said...

"This email wasn't sent to me as an individual. I get all government departmental press releases as a matter of course."

Good grief, I'm not a complete moron... Of course I know that - but it actually makes my point for me, namely that they sent the details to loads of journalists, bloggers etc etc (and I'm sure they know you're one of them), which is the exact opposite of what you'd do if you wanted to "bury" something.

They could've just stuck it up on a website somewhere and hoped nobody would notice.

chrome Diplomat said...

RE your update- As someone who regularly does forward media planing and story fishing from stat bulletins I promise you that they really do always put them out like that and always in exactly the same format- as a statistical release, with the same wording as the ones before.

It may be bad news but bit unfair to accuse them of burying it.

You can check for release dates on the Office of National Statistics website's 30 day release calendar- http://www.statistics.gov.uk/hub/index.html

Iain Dale said...

Sigh. I am not sure whether you are being deliberately obtuse. The point I made wasn't that they were trying to hide it altogether, but to release it on today of all days was a bit suspicious.

However, they have subsequently shown that these releases are always released on this day of the month, which is why I added the update.

Happy?

Anonymous said...

Surely the fact that you have added a note confirming that this information comes out at the same time each month - as you will be able to verify by checking your inbox as you get the releases suggests a new headline, not just a note at the end?

Just asking?

jojoko said...

One of our local surgeries will not answer the phone to make appointments. The only way to get an appointment is to arrive at 7:00a.m. and stand in a queue to get an appointment for that day. Having done this, I was informed the doctor did not work on Wednesdays, so asked to make an appointment for the following day. Was told this could not be done and would have to come back on Thurs. morning at 7:00 a.m. and stand in the queue again.

James said...

I'd place this down to incidental, winter pressures, and swine flu.

Johnny Norfolk said...

One thing for sure there will be nothing about it on the BBC

Anonymous said...

BBC recently ran with the Nuffield Trust report as amongst the main news.

You know the one that said England NHS was much better under Labour than the devovled places?

On BBC Scotland - Labour's own TV channel - it was the first report and stated as fact.

The Scotsman - Labour's own fanzine / designer toilet-paper - went with "Alex Salmomnd slated".

Turns out Nuffield Trust have admissions and since amened dodgy data, that's went right under the radar.

The BBC in Pyongyang needs to be hauled up about this.

Shirley said...

Iain, by your own admission you want to see drastic cuts to the NHS budget to pay back our deficit. So you don't think this will further compound the problem?

Iain Dale said...

Shirley, I have not said any such thing. Yes, I do believe there is room for savings in the NHS budget but I have never used the word 'drastic'. I think it is Nick Clegg who uses language like that.

jojoko said...

James: It is nothing to do with swine flu (are you joking?) or winter pressure. I am new to this surgery and asked the other members of the queue about the situation, and according to them, this has been going on for over two years. Perhaps it is due to incompetence and lack of interest.

Shirley said...

"Shirley, I have not said any such thing. Yes, I do believe there is room for savings in the NHS budget but I have never used the word 'drastic'."

Oh come on Iain. I can't believe you really think that. You have called for cuts in health spending. You can't get away from that.

jojoko said...

James: Swine flu (are you serious?), winter pressure? There is no excuse for not answering the phone to make appointments. There is no excuse for making ill people and people with small children stand in a queue (outside!) in January to make an appointment. I am new to this surgery & asked others in the queue and this has been going on for 2 years according to the man waiting to make an appointment for his wife who had been released from hospital the previous week. The story he told of her treatment in hospital beggars belief. When I got inside and shuffled up to the reception counter, the receptionist looked for my details in a box similar to a shoebox. She licked her finger each time she flipped over a piece of paper. Oh yes, there were computers & online details but for some reason there are stacks of boxes containing info. This is not swine flu or winter pressure, this is sheer incompetence and mismanagement.