Monday 14 July 2008

Lies, damn lies and statistics

As Benjamin Disraeli said there are, "Lies, damn lies and statistics."

This remains true and sadly has been embraced wholesale by politicians. Statistics can be totally accurate, clear and factual. If what you measured is now 34.8% better, things can be shown to be better. The truth, of course, may be different since what you measured may not truly reflect what's really going on.

And that's my beef with statistics. Accurate statistcs are used to infer, support or prove what's in point of fact an inaccurate and untenable position. Statistics may show that quality of life is up 76.8% for patients in my locale but if my patient's dead then no matter how hard I'm told that I'm wrong and, "This year we've done brilliantly, patients' lives have improved 76.8%, your patient is so much better off than they were last year!" I know it's rubbish. For my patient, that individual, the statistics aren't helpful.

Our government have now decided to invest in patient care in hospitals. Hurrah. Dr Crippen will be pleased since the emphasis is to improve care through nursing staff doing more nursing. The NHS Institute of Innovation and Improvement have found that ward nurses spend just 40 per cent of their time on direct patient care. They want to release more nursing time so patients get more care from nurses. Hence their document and the national drive of, "Releasing Time to Care: The Productive Ward." Four sites have piloted this.

Nurses having less time doing paperwork and admin, less time on management, more time with their patients and time to have quality care. Splendid, who can argue with any of this? Laudable proposals are made which can genuinely impact on patient care, for the better, whilst improving the working lives of nursing colleagues. Hurrah!

How much is to be spent of this programme? Why, quite a lot. £50 million. Cooo, that's actually quite a big number, isn't it? Our Secretary of State, Alan Johnson, said in a press release on the 8th May 2008 that the NHS will be investing £50 million in supporting the roll out of the Productive Ward programme. The letter I've had about it is titled, "£50 million to double the time nurses spend on patient care" which is awfully exciting. What can I say, I get excited easily. But really, £50 million national investment to allow nursing colleagues to do more nursing. Fantastic.

One teeny weeny fly in the ointment.

Yet what I read from our SHA is, ". . . we need to demonstrate that £50 million is being invested in implementing the Productive Ward initiative. Schemes may already be in place that count towards the investment target without the requirement to make additional funding of £50 million available." Goes on to say that some PCTs will need to make available additional funding but that, "Any additional funding required should be made available from existing PCT 2008/09 resources."

So, no extra cash at all, then.

Some hospitals may get extra cash from the PCT, some won't. But the PCT doesn't get an extra bean for this, so the "£50 million" is wholly illusory. There is no extra £50 million at all.

Yet, the Secretary of State claims there's "£50 million investment" in this.

Technically, it may be that folk are having to demonstrate that £50 million is being spent on this, but there's no investment at all. It's a meaningless statistic. Worse than that, it's a lie.

1 comment:

Jobbing Doctor said...

This is a frequent tactic where we get multiple announcements of 'new' money and then, quietly, it is expected to be funded from the baseline budget.

It is shabby and dishonest.