Not for the first time, from gangs to hospital infections, Reporting Scotland has scraped around to find cases, even one at times, of a problem which has become widespread in England. The underlying message is the same: ‘Don’t think you’re different.’

As English hospitals completely run out of PPE, we hear headlined on Reporting Scotland:

‘Almost half of nursing staff who responded to a survey say they’ve felt pressure to care for a patient without the appropriate personal protective equipment.’

They go on to tell us nearly everything about the Royal College of Nursing survey except those facts that might reveal to us that it is dated and hopelessly unreliable.

They do tell us that ‘almost 1 500’ responded to the survey. It was 1 465 out of 40 000 or 3.6% of all the RCN members in Scotland. Only 70% of them, around 1 000 or 2.5% of all their members mentioned PPE. The ‘almost half’, 46% (674) who felt pressure amount to 1.7% of RCN members in Scotland. Reporting Scotland do not mention any of this.

This was a self-selecting survey where only those who felt like responding were surveyed. No reputable research or public opinion agency would publish results from such a sample because it is not scientifically reliable. Reporting Scotland did not tell us this. BBC editorial guidelines advise against their use or at least insist that the weaknesses in the research are mentioned.

The survey responses were gathered between 6 and 8 days ago. Judging by media coverage in that period there have been mass deliveries of PPE since then.

The RCN survey results are dated and consequently of no value. They are not news. They are not comparable with this weekend’s crisis in NHS England, 8 days later.

Finally, the RCN is a trade union working to improve its members wages and conditions. It is not an impartial or academic body. It uses the word ‘Royal’ to imply status and to conceal its true nature. We cannot trust a survey from such a group. What do you think they asked their members?How were the questions worded? Might someone with experience in such research think they were leading questions which would distort the results? We’ll never know. They don’t publish their methods. They know we’d laugh.