Scottish Health Secretary Shona Robison has today called on Jim Murphy to return to the hospital which he visited yesterday and apologise to staff after his party were “caught red-handed fiddling waiting times figures”. Yesterday Labour issued a press release criticising NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde for allegedly cancelling four times as many operations as their counterparts in England. Jim Murphy posted a Youtube video of himself outside Glasgow Royal, and tweeted “Scots deserve to know how many cancelled operations there are in Scotland's NHS. From my visit to Glasgow Royal”
However, within hours the claims had been exposed as a complete falsehood and Mr Murphy had deleted the Tweet and the video from Youtube. It emerged that Labour had vastly inflated the figure in Glasgow by including operations which were cancelled for clinical reasons, while the English figure referred to only those cancelled for non-clinical reasons. There are many legitimate clinical reasons why operations are cancelled, for instance if the patient has not fasted properly.
In the case of NHSGGC, Labour cited 292 cancellations and claimed these worked out at 1.5 per 100,000 population per day. This compared to 19,471 cancelled in England, which Labour said worked out at 0.39 per 100,000 population per day. However, the FOI response provided to Labour made clear that over 200 of those 292 operations – over 70% - were cancelled for clinical reasons. Meanwhile, the figure Labour used for England – which they themselves link to in their press release – makes clear that the 19,471 cancellations south of the border only included those for non-clinical reasons, so Labour were not comparing like with like.
When only non-clinical cancellations are compared for both Scotland and England, the rates of cancellation are in fact broadly comparable. The incident is just the latest blunder from Labour in its attempts to – in the reported words of Ed Miliband – “weaponise” the NHS. Last week Health Spokesperson Jenny Marra was criticised for photographing herself outside a health centre in Fife with Labour’s Westminster candidate, criticising the poor quality of care. But Ms Marra had photographed herself outside the old centre which had closed down, with the Scottish Government funding the construction of a brand new centre right next door.
Commenting, Shona Robison said: "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. It is simply inexcusable for Jim Murphy to have vastly inflated the number of operations cancelled in Glasgow.All of the necessary information was known to Mr Murphy – it was provided in the FOI response to Richard Simpson – yet he withheld this information from his press release in order that he could make these false claims."
Continuing Ms Robison said: "The fact that Mr Murphy has deleted the Tweet and Youtube video shows that he knows he has been exposed. He must now return to the Glasgow Royal and post a similar video – this time apologising to staff and patients. 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. With behaviour such as this, it is little wonder that Scots overwhelmingly trust the SNP over Labour to act in the NHS’ best interests."