– in the Scottish Parliament on 27th April 2023.
6. To ask the First Minister what the Scottish Government is doing to ensure that published national health service waiting times for treatment are accurate. (S6F-02053)
Published statistics are collated and quality-assured by Public Health Scotland. They are published as part of the full release of national statistics each quarter. National statistics status means that the official statistics meet the highest standards of trustworthiness, quality and public value. The United Kingdom Statistics Authority has designated PHS stats as national statistics, therefore signifying its compliance with the code of practice for statistics.
One in seven Scots is currently on a waiting list, and senior clinicians have warned that the waiting times statistics that are published on nhsinform.scot are both inaccurate and misleading. I wrote to the UK Statistics Authority in October last year; it agreed and asked the Scottish Government to make changes. Six months later, very little has changed. Clinicians are still up in arms about the stats being skewed and the Scottish Government continues to use median waiting times and to mix emergency and elective care.
Will the First Minister now stop pulling the wool over people’s eyes and rectify that misleading data? Can he tell us whether he published the stats while knowing about the criticism of their flaws?
No, we did not. We received the letter from the UK Statistics Authority. I have engaged with the Scottish Committee for Orthopaedics and Trauma—SCOT—and I am sure that the Cabinet Secretary for NHS Recovery, Health and Social Care will continue to meet with the same organisation.
It is incorrect for Jackie Baillie to suggest that changes were not made. She is right that we received that letter in October 2022. We then worked with Public Health Scotland and NHS 24 to review and address the key points that were made. Following the recommendations of the Office for Statistics Regulation, we made a number of changes, which included highlighting both the strengths and the limitations that the data showed on the website. There are now additional links for the full release of national statistics on the PHS website, which provide further information in relation to the distribution of waiting times for patients who have completed their waits and those who are still waiting.
In relation to the criticism from SCOT, the Cabinet Secretary for NHS Recovery, Health and Social Care will continue to meet with the organisation. I commend it, its members and all those who work in NHS Scotland for the fact that, despite significant on-going pressure, the number of out-patients who have been waiting longer than two years for a new out-patient appointment has reduced by 50 per cent since September 2022 and by more than 60 per cent since June 2022.