A screenshot of a social media post

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Not really

Once again thanks to Legerwood for alerting me to this misuse of data.

The graph below has been used before to illustrate the A&E performance of the 4 NHS regions in the UK and is re-used by the Reality Check Team. It seems to suggest little difference between that of NHS England and NHS Scotland but is incorrect.

A screenshot of a cell phone

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The team reports:

The first minister also said: “We have the best performing accident and emergency services anywhere in the United Kingdom.” Health is a devolved power, and each nation expects 95% of patients to be treated or admitted in four hours. Nicola Sturgeon is right to say that performance against this target was better in Scotland than in the rest of the UK in 2018-19 – when 91.2% of patients were treated or admitted in that time – but Scotland still missed its target. The figure compares with 88% in England, 80% in Wales and 69.9% Northern Ireland.


Leaving aside the unnecessary carping about devolved powers and missing the target, the FM was simply correct in her claim, but the NHS England performance was in fact much lower:

‘78.9% of patients were seen within 4 hours in type 1 A&E departments compared to 78.8% in Jun 2019 and 83.3% for the same month last year.’

Click to access Statistical-commentary-July-2019-ntSgq.pdf

The writers make an astonishing, beginner’s error in the use of statistics, with the effect of exaggerating NHS England’s A&E performance and reducing the gap with that of NHS Scotland. The error is simple. They mistakenly use the performance figures for ‘All’ A&E departments when they should only use those for ‘Type 1’ departments in England:

Type 1 A&E department: a consultant-led 24-hour service with full resuscitation facilities and designated accommodation for A&E patients. ‘All’ A&E types, include Minor Injury Units and Walk-in Centres.


Only Type 1 data are comparable with those elsewhere in the UK and are reported discretely by NHS England for that purpose.

So, in 2018/19, 78.9% of patients were seen in 4 hours, in Type 1 NHS England departments, while in Scotland 91.2% were!

Thus A&E performance in NHS Scotland is 15.5% better than in NHS England and even NHS Wales performs better than it does.