Why the Royal Colleges cannot be trusted

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve written to one of the royal colleges, or for that matter, trade unions like the BMA or the GMB, asking to see the data and the methods, including the questions which they ‘used’ in surveys which Scotland’s media then headline to suggest some failure on the part of the Scottish Government.

Almost without exception, they either ignore my request or refuse, so typically, going by the press or TV reports, I note the implication of a tiny and unrepresentative/ self-selecting sample and condemn it as worthless. Only one group has ever come back to me, a bit in the huff with my harsh judgement.

A week ago (16th November), I wrote to the Royal College of Midwives, on their claim that more than 75% of NHS midwives think staffing levels are unsafe:

Can you give me access to the full report with methods and data including a breakdown into responses from the 4 nations?

The Guardian report makes it clear that the survey covered the UK.

Their Media Relations Officer replied the next day:

Many thanks for your enquiry. We are keeping the survey results confidential certainly for now as it a broad-ranging survey and we’ll be releasing more results from it over the coming weeks.

Why need the data, anonymised, be kept confidential?

On the 21st, after waiting 4 days, I wrote again:

Getting late. I’ll be posting on this if only to point out your secretive nature.

No reply.

Is it possible, they got too few Scottish responses or ones that did not fit their research agenda?

Might this be a reason?

The exchange:

John Robertson <jupitergreen61@gmail.com>Mon, Nov 16, 8:07 AM (7 days ago)
to media

HiCan you give me access to the full report with methods and data including a breakdown into responses from the 4 nations?Thank youProfessor John RobertsonAyrjupitergreen61@gmail.com3

MediaTue, Nov 17, 1:21 PM (6 days ago)
to me

John, 
Many thanks for your enquiry. We are keeping the survey results confidential certainly for now as it a broad-ranging survey and we’ll be releasing more results from it over the coming weeks.
Regards
Colin 

Colin Beesley

Media Relations Office

The Royal College of Midwives

T: 020 7312 3456

Web: www.rcm.org.uk
Twitter: @MidwivesRCM

Facebook: www.facebook.com/MidwivesRCM


From: John Robertson <jupitergreen61@gmail.com>
Sent: 16 November 2020 08:07
To: Media <media@rcm.org.uk>
Subject: Survey reported in Guardian External e-mail – think before opening links or attachments


John Robertson <jupitergreen61@gmail.com>Sat, Nov 21, 3:29 PM (2 days ago)
to Media

Getting lateI’ll be posting on this if only to point out your secretive nature

4 thoughts on “Why the Royal Colleges cannot be trusted

  1. We can be 100% sure, no, 110% sure (I know I hate it when people say 110% too) OK millions of 100%’s sure that if the figures for Scotland were worse than England or Wales, it would be being shouted from the rooftops in the media and by these ‘ROYAL’ colleges and ‘unions’ for weeks and they’d be calling for ‘heads to roll’ or it would be a ‘resign!’ witch hunt aimed at Scotland’s health minister.
    It seems these publicly funded(?) organisations do not want to expose the terrible failings of the English government in London, even when it comes to saving lives, or not.

    Like

  2. This misuse of surveys is becoming commonplace. I see from the response to your enquiry John that the RCM is planning to compound its misuse on this occasion with doing so again and potentially, again as it releases more ‘evidence’ from its survey.

    I note from the RCM website this info for its maternity staffing research: “The survey was conducted online from 28 October to 8 November 2020. There were 1400 responses, predominantly from England (Wales: 58; Scotland: 144; Northern Ireland: 76).”

    I reckon based on NHS Scotland workforce data that there are currently 3,124 whole time equivalent midwifery posts in Scotland. The number has been on a steep rise since a (puzzling) low in late 2016.

    Source: https://turasdata.nes.nhs.scot/workforce-official-statistics/nhsscotland-workforce/publications/01-september-2020/dashboards/nursing-and-midwifery/

    If the RCM had used a random sampling strategy for its survey, then it would have needed closer to 350 responses from Scotland in order to have survey results with a normally acceptable confidence level and error bars. However, as the RCM refuses to divulge its survey method, it’s not possible to say anything very much about the statistical significance of its findings. If as one suspects this small number of responses from Scotland is from a self-selecting sample, then candidly any attempt at extrapolation to the population of midwifes in Scotland is bunkum!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. stewartb
      The ‘puzzling’ low in 2016 may date back to a cut in the intake of student nurses and midwives in 2012-13 academic year. – down to 2400 from 2700 That year there was a record number of nurses/midwives in training – around 10,300 – which raised fears that there would not be enough jobs for them when they graduated. However, in every academic year since then the numbers have increased and in 2019-20 academic year there was an intake of 4006 student nurses/midwives.

      This may explain in part or in whole the surprising low in 2016.

      In addition the SG ran a successful 3 year programme during this period to attract nurses/midwives back into the NHS.

      Like

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