"The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it"
Aneurin Bevan

Sunday, 17 April 2011


It is clear that the government will bend the truth to persuade people that only their policy for the NHS is the acceptable policy. Rather shamelessly health ministers (and the Prime Minister) trot out misleading "statistics" even when leading academics have proven that the "statistics" are either wrong or being used misleadingly.

This is not new in British politics. The Major government misused statistics to such an extent that the 1997 Labour manifesto pledged to make the Office of National Statistics independent (however, this did not happen until 2006). Similarly, creative use of Treasury statistics by Gordon Brown lead to a manifesto pledge by the Conservatives to set up the independent Office for Budgetary Responsibility. We now see politicians argue about the meaning of OBR statistics, rather than arguing over the veracity of the economic statistics. So why not a healthcare version of the OBR?

Such an organisation, independent of  government could collate all medical statistics, from the public sector and private sector so that meaningful comparisons could be made.

In the meantime, I suggest that government ministers restrain their use of dodgy stats because we have come to the point that any figure about the NHS when uttered from the mouth of a minister is treated as being untrue. That is not a good thing. A simple solution is at hand: the Chief Medical Officer. Ministers should only present statistics that have either been mentioned by the CMO or they have checked with her and therefore have her approval. The government is losing trust over the NHS, this is one small way that they can gain a lot of trust.

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