Labour attacks NHS England’s Christmas ‘news blackout’
- The Guardian, Thursday 18 December 2014 09.13 GMT
Labour has criticised NHS bosses’ decision not to publish key performance data over the festive period, describing the move as a news blackout.
NHS England has decided to not publish its usual weekly data sets covering issues such as patient waiting times in A&E after this Friday, 19 December, until 9 January.
“It is highly unsatisfactory to have this news blackout over the crucial Christmas period. People can’t be kept in the dark,” said Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary.
He is urging Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, to honour his drive for greater transparency in the NHS by insisting the data, usually published every Friday, to come out normally.
NHS England’s decision follows last week’s performance data, which showed that record numbers of patients had not been treated in A&E inside the four-hour maximum waiting time and spent between four and 12 hours on a trolley waiting to be admitted.
On Wednesday 17th the service’s medical director, Prof Sir Bruce Keogh, admitted that “the [A&E] system is creaking; it is under pressure at the moment.”
The figures NHS England (will now) currently publishes also include data on the number of ambulances that have had to queue outside hospitals because the A&E is full, ambulances diverted elsewhere for the same reason, availability of beds and cancelled operations (italics correct for clarity)
“The next three weeks’ figures will show whether major A&Es have missed the four-hour target for every single week of 2014. A&Es have been trapped in a downward spiral by David Cameron’s decision to abolish guaranteed GP appointments and undermine social care”, added Burnham.
Editor's note: the statistics will still be collected. They will not be published until 9th January, well after the end of the holidays.