A BBC News video report today from North Tees Hospital showed the strain under which the NHS has been placed in the so-called ‘winter crisis’. Funding under the Tories is increasing at a far slower rate than the historical average 4% – making the NHS seriously under-resourced.
The report – filmed at one of England’s best-performing A&E (Accident & Emergency) departments – also gave a glimpse of the human cost of the crisis as patients waited and suffered in corridors and makeshift wards.
But most tellingly, it also revealed ways in which patients enduring long waits are kept out of the A&E performance statistics altogether:
At the end of the clip, the BBC’s Health Editor Hugh Pym discusses the fact that patients waiting up to six hours – well over the target time of four hours – are not included in A&E statistics at all, while other hospitals are including statistics from other facilities in their own, presumably places that are hitting targets, in order to drag up their own stats.
Pym also refers to the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA)’s belief that the current way statistics are being presented is ‘seriously misleading‘.
UKSA today issued a letter – described as ‘oblique‘ by the Chief Executive of the Royal Statistical Society – indicating, as the CEO described it, that “something odd is happening to A&E stats“:
The reference to an “unpublished letter.. having an impact on recording practice” raises the possibility that NHS Trusts have been told to adopt practices that keep some of the worst numbers out of the official A&E statistics – and makes it certain that numbers are not as clear, nor methodologies as transparent, as they should be.
Whatever the details of these opaque methodologies, the BBC report alone is sufficient to make it clear that what the BBC called record waiting times across A&Es in England are in fact under-reported.
The real situation under this government is worse – possibly far worse – than we have so far been told.
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