NHS Statistics

I was ashamed to pay my licence fee this morning when I saw the BBC reports on hospital cleanliness.  
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7542718.stm

Having dug a little and asked for some more information I was shocked to find that this list was compiled from data requested only hours before.  It seems that NHS trusts were asked for their data under the Freedom of Information Act (which gives them 28 days to respond) and yet the results were published days later, with many Trusts, including the one where I live, not having had time to respond at all, never mind with complete and meaningful results!

Whilst I was looking for meaning in these numbers, I discovered that the question asked how many visits from pest control had been requested over the whole Trust in a two year period.  That included every building used by the Trust (clinical and administrative alike) and every preventative and advisory visit as well as actual calls to problems.  So, if an inspector came and found no problems and gave advice on pest prevention, that was still counted in the figures…  

I wonder how many buildings my local Trust uses, since it could include every GP surgery, every NHS dentist and every office as well as the major hospitals there are potentially hundreds of sites per Trust.

Surely this means that rather than improving the state of services, Trusts are simply more likely to be cautious about asking for advice, review or preventative measures and actually increasing the risk of pest problems within NHS buildings.

Features like this, with misleading figures and sensationalist headlines only seek to destroy confidence still further.  The NHS is struggling with a shortage of front-line staff, overworked and stressed employees, and a history of ever changing agenda and management teams.  Consumer confidence in our healthcare system is at an all time low.  Would it not be better to focus on the things that are really wrong and that can be improved, rather than creating a whirlwind out of a few badly thought out statistics and a couple of examples of pest problems where the right authorities were called to deal with the issues in a safe and speedy way?

The NHS is in a muddle already, and it needs help and good quality consumer feedback to improve, not pointless criticism for addressing problems when they are found.  

If we want the NHS to be honest about the figures, and to report them in a meaningful and comparative way, we have to start asking for the numbers that are really important, and using them constructively to improve services. People need to have access to the figures, but they also need to know that they are complete, what they mean, how and why they are recorded and what to do with them in terms of making informed choices or campaigning for improvements.

If the NHS needed less money to pay for lawyers, publicists and insurance agents, there would be more money for clinical staff who could provide safer, better and cleaner care than they are able to manage on a shoestring budget.

About Vicki

Mum to 4 children, member of NCT and AIMS, NCT qualified breastfeeding counsellor
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