I went to a hustings last week and the Conservative candidate said that the NHS was being mismanaged under Labour because numbers of managers were rising at a rate 5 times higher than nurses. This is a typical ignorant (well he's a Tory) misuse of statistics. The figures come from the NHS Information Centre.
In one year (2009) the number of managers in the NHS rose by 11.9% and the number of nurses rose by 2.2%, so yes for that one year, the rise in managers was approximately 5 times more. But note that was one year. Let's take another year, 2005. In this year the number of managers dropped by 7% and the number of nurses rose by 1%. What about the following year, 2006? The number of managers dropped by 0.7%, but the number of nurses rose by 0.3%. Can you see what I am talking about? Taking just one year's figures is dishonest, and typically Tory. The employment figures in the NHS changes every year, but the number of managers goes up and down at a more erratic rate than the numbers of nurses (or doctors).
In fact if we look at two Tory years 1995 and 1996, the number of managers rose by 2% and 4% respectively, and the numbers of nurses rose by 0.7% and fell by 0.1% respectively.
So if a Tory candidate quotes the "in 2009 the number of managers rose 5 times faster than the number of nurses" you should say that in the last year the Tories were in control of the NHS, 1996, the number of managers rose by 4%, and the number of nurses fell by 0.1%, so the rise in managers was 40 times more than the fall in nurses.
Yes, this is also misusing statistics, so only use this after they have misused statistics in the same way to their benefit.