Nuffield Trust statement on NHS Scotland figures included in study of UK health performance

The Nuffield Trust has now received official confirmation from the Office for National Statistics that an official figure obtained from the ONS and used in a January 2010 report was incorrect.

Press Release

Published: 21/01/2010

The Nuffield Trust would like to confirm that it has now received official confirmation from the Office for National Statistics that an official figure obtained from the ONS using data provided by Scotland, which was used in the Nuffield Trust’s latest report*, published on 20 January 2010, was incorrect.

The figure refers to the number of Hospital Medical and Dental staff (whole time equivalents) per 1,000 population in Scotland and had been published as the official figure for Scotland in 2006. In the Nuffield Trust’s report, the number of Hospital Medical and Dental staff in Scotland in 2006 was referenced as 12,880 (this was the official figure taken from data in ONS: United Kingdom Health Statistics 2008; Table 8.3).

However, the original data provided to the ONS for Scotland in 2006 included hospital doctors, general dental practitioners working in hospital settings and general dental practitioners working in the community when it should not have included the latter. The official statistic for Scotland for 2006 has therefore been changed to 10,161 Hospital Medical and Dental staff (whole time equivalents) per 1,000 population. This change has resulted in some modifications to the data in the Nuffield Trust’s report (see point 3 in notes to editors below). The report will be amended accordingly. In the interim, we have provided updated graphs.

The Nuffield Trust would like to reiterate that this error was not the result of its analysis and research, which is conducted to the highest possible academic standards. The inaccuracy for this figure resulted from the ONS statistics having been compiled on a different basis across the four nations. This figure has been in the public domain for three years without dispute.

The Nuffield Trust was first alerted to a potential inaccuracy on this one figure by the Scottish Government on Tuesday, 19 January but official confirmation that the figure was incorrect did not happen until Wednesday, 20 January, and after the publication of the report. It was therefore not possible to amend the figure in time. Today we will publish the amended figures on our website.

Based on the new figures for medical staffing, Scotland's ranking relative to the other devolved nations on crude productivity for medical staff changes, but there is no change relative to England, or the North East of England – a region that is similar on a range of health and socio-economic indicators.

Further discussions are ongoing on the consistency of the officially published statistics that have been used in the report. The Nuffield Trust welcomes the scrutiny that the report is attracting and is committed to working further with NHS Scotland and the ONS to clarify the situation. The Trust believes this confirms the vital importance of accurate official statistics since they are used in a wide variety of ways for researching and planning health services.

Notes to editors

The changes to the figure for the number of Hospital Medical and Dental staff (whole time equivalents) per 1,000 population in Scotland for 2006 results in the following revisions to the Nuffield Trust’s data:

  • Figure 4.5: The number of Hospital Medical and Dental staff per 1,000 population for Scotland in 2006 reduces from 2.5 to 2.0. Scotland therefore has more Hospital Medical and Dental staff per capita than England and Wales, but slightly less than Northern Ireland.
  • Figure 4.13: Inpatient admissions per Hospital Medical and Dental staff member now increase to 67.5 (from 54). This is still significantly lower than England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
  • Figure 4.12: Outpatient appointments per Hospital Medical and Dental staff member now increase to 446.5 (from 357). This figure is less than England and Wales, but more than Northern Ireland.
  • Figure 4.14: Day cases per Hospital Medical and Dental staff member increase to 38 (from 30). This is higher than the figure for Wales but less than England and Northern Ireland.