Two graphs show Tories’ #winterpressures excuse is #fakenews

Ok, this article is going to show you four graphs, but one is for background and one of the others is just a different type of chart depicting the same information as one of the others, for those who find it easier to read..

Back in October, this blog published a prediction of NHS A&E (Accident & Emergency) waits that is currently being borne out by by the NHS ‘humanitarian crisis’ that has seen massive increases in A&E waits and in the number of patients being held over an hour in ambulances before they even get into A&E – and while they’re in an ambulance they don’t even show up in A&E statistics.

Here’s the predictive graph from that article, which shows waiting times reaching record levels of 22% – a 545% increase since the Tories took Downing Street in 2010:


Predictably, the Tories are scrambling for excuses rather than accept that their underfunding and mistreatment of the NHS is the root cause of this disaster. As well as ludicrously blaming GPs, they are also rolling out the tired old trope that the current situation is caused by ‘normal winter pressures’ and have even claimed that the NHS is ‘equipped to deal’ with them, as the Dept of Health told the Guardian just over a week ago:


This is also bollocks, not to put too fine a point on it. And this one graph will show you why:


This chart shows the percentages of patients waiting over 4 hours in A&E, the key measure of hospital performance against urgent demand, over a couple of years. As you can see even from this small sample, demand goes down in the summer and up in the winter.

So ‘winter pressures’ exist. But they are not the cause of the NHS crisis.

How do we know? Simple – look at the horizontal red line. Within a calendar year, demand is lower in summer. But the best month in 2016 was as bad as the worst month in 2015. That is, the NHS was more overwhelmed in summer last year than in the winter of the year before.

The worst month in the 2015/16 winter was far worse than the worst in 2015. In case you find line graphs easier, here’s that first chart again, with two lines added:


The yellow, vertical line intersects the blue performance line in December 2015, so you can easily see the worst A&E performance of 2015.

The red, horizontal line carries that ‘worst of 2015’ level forwards so you can easily see that the best month in 2016 is worse than the worst month of 2015.

2016 was by no means a one-off in terms of the trend of drastic increases. The next graph shows the trend over 5 years – and this one has two lines.

Because the bad news – if you’re relying on the NHS under the Tories – is that the figures published on A&E waiting times are measured across the three different types of ’emergency’ unit. These are:

Type 1: Major A&E units
Type 2: ‘Single specialty’ units (e.g. heart unit)
Type 3: Walk-ins and minor injury units

If you look at the ‘type 1’ units, the major units where the most serious cases will arrive, the waiting-time performance is worse – every year – around 50% worse than you’ll hear in the usual, ‘all units’ measure.


On this chart, the yellow vertical lines show the last month of each year, so you can see at a glance where one ends and the next begins. As you can see, there is a marked increase across time – but a drastically accelerating rate of increase from 2014.

If the Tories claim that the NHS crisis is just an effect of ‘normal winter pressures’, then they are attempting to mislead. In other words, they’re lying to you.

The figures do not reflect anything normal or predictable about demand on NHS A&E departments. They do reflect an NHS that was under increasing pressure the moment the Tories took office – and which, since 2014, has been increasingly coming apart at the seams, resulting in an increasingly rapid fall in its ability to cope with ‘normal winter pressures’ that it previously took in its stride.

The only ‘normal and predictable’ thing about it is that nobody should be surprised that the Tories in government will attack, undermine, defund and eviscerate the NHS.

In other words, that you should never trust a Tory with the UK’s greatest treasure – that the NHS is anything but ‘safe in their hands’.

Oh, and of course, that if their lips are moving they’re probably lying.

In case you want to check my workings, here’s the NHS spreadsheet in full: monthly-ae-timeseries-august-16-1

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