BBC Complaint: Counting the absent up to seven times to get a headline

BBC Complaints – Case number CAS-7061170-W8T5K4

NHS Scotland staff absences 

In the Reporting Scotland insert we were told that ‘about 50,200 NHS staff were off work in the week to 11 January.’ There are only just over 70 000 nursing staff altogether. The official figure for that week was actually 7 174:
Your staff have added up the daily figures for 7 days to get a big headline number but in so doing counted the same people up to 7 times.
Not only is this embarrassing for a well-staffed department but it is in danger of creating unnecessary anxiety about attending hospitals and thus is a risk to lives.
Please broadcast again in every Reporting Scotland episode, a clarification and apology. Please also arrange for training in statistics for the staff responsible.

15 thoughts on “BBC Complaint: Counting the absent up to seven times to get a headline

  1. John I had just read your last post and was in the middle of typing a complaint to BBC when I saw your latest. I lodged my complaint and asked for immediate correction but as per usual will be surprised if that happens before lunchtime broadcast. Damage is already done

    Liked by 4 people

  2. You are right to complain.

    Will they accept your complaint? How do you, Professor Robertson, KNOW that they were NOT different people on each of the days? How do you know that the management of the NHS Scotland have not doctored the figures. They might just be ‘the tip of an iceberg’; maybe more than 1/4 million staff were absent. Boris Johnson has NO responsibility for NHS Scotland, so get it up ye ya nationalist commie Jock basturt! Ur you frae Elgin, tae? (These last are to be delivered in the voice of a Cambridge Footlights Review person in a cod Scotch (sic) accent – perhaps Alister Jack’s)

    Liked by 4 people

  3. BBC Scotland–“Journalism for Dummies”.

    Or should that be Dummies are Journalists?

    No, this is deliberate misuse of statistics for propaganda.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Yes, indeed!

      The 50k+ has vanished from the headline, but the accusatory ‘highest’ remains. The article is more nuanced and provides some contextual data, although well into the text. It mentions ‘about 166 000’ NHS staff but does not mention that absences are c4.4% of the workforce, nor does it give information on what the percentage rates usually are. It does retain the misleading graph and paragraphs from which they derived the original 50 000 figure.

      They are trying to divert attention from the troubles of the Tories and the contempt for DRoss.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. The headline still says “Highest (sic) since the start of the pandemic”, which is incorrect. The pandemic started in the UK on 31, January, 2020. The BBC Scotland article indicates that it was higher in April, 2020.

      Still, who wants accuracy, when the aim is to present Scotland in a bad light?

      Liked by 3 people

    1. ++++++ALERT+++++++ALERT+++++++ALERT+++++++

      Don’t prick your finger on a rose, or eat any of the chocolates.


      Liked by 2 people

    1. It also says “GPs in NHS Lanarkshire have suspended some services so they can prioritise the most urgent care, including people with respiratory or Covid-19 symptoms or those who believe they have symptoms of cancer.” which perhaps explains the question Sarwar put to FM earlier. Not having read this I wondered if he had done his usual of “opening his mouth and letting his stomach rumble” as we like to say here in Ayrshire


  4. John
    It was 25 minutes after you posted your complaint case number and their acknowledgment of my complaint. Judging by the case references it would seem that they had received 55 complaints, equivalent to 142 per hour! No wonder they say they aim to reply within ten days. The complaints department seems to be very busy!


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