Many measures of waiting times

by Rob Findlay

Want to prove that waiting times in England are going up? Pick this measure. Want to prove they’re going down? Pick that one.

There are so many different ways of measuring waiting times around at the moment, it’s easy to get confused when politicians cherry-pick the ones that suit their story (as happened recently at PMQs).

Yesterday John Appleby, Chief Economist at the King’s Fund, blogged about this very problem. He explained how the different measures work, and opened up a timely debate about which are the most meaningful.

So I thought it would be helpful to put together a simple table, showing English referral-to-treatment time trends across the whole of the available data series, and including all the different measures you might hear about. A kind of fact-checker for waiting time statistics.

You can download the table as an Excel spreadsheet here:

NHS waiting times – the Gooroo collection

So the next time you hear a politician saying that waiting times have risen month-on-month under this Government, you can check if that’s true. If you hear another saying they went down last month, you can check that as well.

If you are a politician, and want to build a case that flatters your party’s record, then no doubt this assortment of measures will help with the statistical cherry-picking. But be warned, the rest of us are wising up too!

(This post first appeared in HSJ blogs)
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