SNP statements contradict BBC reporter’s NHS claims

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  By a Newsnet reporter

A BBC Scotland reporter who was recently accused of having used bogus figures in order to criticise the Scottish NHS, has attempted to use NHS statistics in order to cast doubt on the effectiveness of the SNP’s referendum campaign.

Eleanor Bradford told viewers of Reporting Scotland that newly published figures for the Scottish NHS were not what the SNP wanted, because the NHS had become central to the independence campaign.

Bradford, who is BBC Scotland’s health correspondent, had just described a raft of statistics as “grim reading”.

The reporter told viewers that three NHS boards had missed a target to treat a majority of people within 18 weeks and said accident and emergency departments had also missed a target to treat people.  Bradford also highlighted an increase in the number of people who cannot be discharged because there is nowhere for them to go.

Towards the end of the item on Reporting Scotland, with logos for the official referendum campaigns displayed prominently, the reporter controversially implied that the statistics harmed the SNP’s drive for independence.

She said: “With the NHS becoming a referendum issue it isn’t the kind of performance the SNP would have wanted.”

However the BBC reporter’s claim that the SNP would not want the ‘performance’ had already been contradicted by official comments from Health Secretary Alex Neil and SNP MSP Michael Matheson.

Neil, questioned by the BBC earlier that day had praised record patient satisfaction and record recruitment levels.  The Scottish Government minister also pointed to a 94% A&E waiting time figure which he called “an incredible achievement”.

He added: “To achieve 94% across all patients seen in A&E within four hours across Scotland is by any standard a tremendous achievement and far far higher than it is in comparable health systems in Wales and Northern reland.”

Commenting on the same figures, SNP MSP Michael Matheson said:

“These excellent figures show exactly why it is so important to protect our NHS and keep it in public hands – the number of NHS staff is now at an all time high, with a record number of nurses and consultants.

“This has only been possible because of Scottish Government commitment to and investment in our NHS.”

Official figures, published by ISD Scotland, revealed that the number of people who attended A&E between April and June 2014 was a record 429,000 – up almost 3 per cent compared to the same period in 2013 and up over 5 per cent since 2008.  Despite the increase, the number of people attending A&E who were seen and treated within four hours reached 94 per cent for June 2014, which has increased from 93 per cent in March 2013.

ISD figures also show that under the SNP, the NHS Scotland workforce has increased by almost 7 per cent to a record high, with over 8,800 more whole time equivalent (WTE) staff.

The number of qualified nurses and midwives has increased to a record high –up 4.4 per cent, and NHS consultant numbers are also at a record level, with a 31.2 per cent increase and over 1,100 more WTE consultants since 2006.

NHS Scotland has already exceeded its target to reduce senior management by 25 per cent, delivering a 29 per cent cut in the last four years.

The move by the BBC reporter to suggest the SNP’s handling of the NHS damages the party’s referendum campaign, comes as the NHS takes centre stage in the independence debate.  Fears over the privatisation agenda being pursued by the UK Government has coincided with increased support for the Yes campaign.

Ms Bradford is no stranger to controversy having made a series of controversial claims relating the Scottish NHS.

Two weeks ago the BBC reporter was accused of using bogus figures in a report into ward occupancy rates in Scotland’s NHS.  The reporter claimed occupancy rates were as high as 133% in some hospitals as beds were borrowed from other wards.

However the figures used by the BBC were challenged by Greater and Glasgow Clyde Health Board which said: “The occupancy rate for surgical and medical specialities at Inverclyde Royal during the period covered by the BBC ranged from 76% to 97.7%.”

The claim was also challenged by Health Secretary Alex Neil who said it just never happened.

Last year Ms Bradford was embroiled in another row after she was accused of presenting false figures relating to waiting times in the Scottish NHS.

In a BBC article published on January 12th 2013, Ms Bradford claimed that “As many as 3,500 people at risk of bone fractures are waiting eight months for a scan to detect osteoporosis at a clinic in Aberdeen.”

The claims also featured on the flagship news programme Reporting Scotland.

However, Newsnet Scotland discovered the statement was untrue – the 3,500 figure was the number of patients treated by the centre in a year and NOT as claimed by the BBC the number who were affected by the 32 week delay.

NHS Grampian put out a detailed statement following the BBC report which refuted all of the allegations made by Ms Bradford.

It subsequently emerged that, far from 3,500 people having been affected by the scanner problem at NHS Grampian as claimed by BBC Scotland, the real figure was closer to one hundred.