The Scottish Labour leader released a video on Monday accusing Scottish ministers of covering up a far higher rate of cancelled operations than in England, after data for the Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board (NHSGGC) suggested it was nearly four times greater.
Posing outside Glasgow Royal Infirmary, the Scottish Labour leader said that was more evidence of growing strain on resources. “Our NHS is too important to be silenced by SNP ministers embarrassed by politically inconvenient statistics,” he said.
But Labour admitted on Tuesday it had got the figures wrong, leading to demands from the Scottish health secretary, Shona Robison, for an immediate apology to NHS staff at the hospital.
“Jim Murphy has been caught red-handed fiddling the NHS figures – and he must withdraw these outrageous claims and issue an immediate and unequivocal apology to NHS staff and patients,” Robison said.
“There are undoubtedly pressures in our NHS, but the last thing staff and indeed patients need is to have politicians touring the country whipping up panic with false claims such as these.”
Soon after releasing Robison’s challenge on Tuesday, the Scottish government disclosed that it would now publish weekly A&E statistics in line with practice in England as part of a new programme to increase transparency on NHS data.
In a move to neutralise Scottish Labour’s intensive campaigning on NHS performance in the runup to the general election, Robison said a website called NHS Performs would be set up to allow publication of hospital performance data.
Labour said its researchers had miscalculated: the NHSGGC figures included operations cancelled for clinical reasons while England’s data was only for operations cancelled on non-medical grounds. In fact, said Robison, the NHSGGC and English figures were comparable.
But a spokesman insisted Scottish ministers were themselves responsible for the confusion for repeatedly refusing to regularly publish official data on cancelled operations, which could expose worsening performance.
That forced the public and MSPs to use freedom of information requests in Scotland, while in England this data was routinely released, allowing much greater transparency, a Labour spokesman said.
Scottish ministers also refused to release weekly hospital-by-hospital data on worsening accident and emergency waiting times, even though those figures were sent in every Tuesday.
“Somebody made a mistake in interpreting the statistics that we got from a freedom of information request. We don’t get published data although they do in England,” he said.
“Our argument is that this information is available but the SNP government isn’t making it available to anybody else, including elected representatives.”
The latest Scottish A&E figures showed that only seven out of 32 core A&E hospitals met the government’s target to have 98% of patients seen in four hours.
A support team was sent into Royal Alexandra hospital A&E in Paisley after it emerged only 84% of emergency patients were seen in under four hours. About 2,400 people across Greater Glasgow & Clyde waited more than four hours for treatment over the Christmas period.
This article was written by Severin Carrell, Scotland correspondent, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 17th February 2015 14.35 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010