If hospital figures for food spend are so wildly inaccurate, what else are they getting wrong?

From waiting times, to medication errors, to surgical outcomes; NHS decisions are made on the basis of data. It's vital that data is correct.

Share
Related Topics

It should have been a straight forward story.

The Department of Health yesterday released figures showing how much every hospital in England spends per day, per patient on food. In an accompanying press release the new Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt expressed understandable alarm the disparity of the spending. This ranged from a miserly £2.19 at Newham General Hospital to a whopping £15.47 at South Tees. The figures, he said, showed spending on food varied “wildly” across the country. As a result he was going to investigate whether there was “a link between what is spent and the quality of food delivered”.

But that was when things started getting complicated. Phone calls to the hospital trusts with the lowest (self-reported) spending on food resulted in some surprising responses. Oh no, that’s not right said Newham after 30 minutes of checks. We actually spend £6.57 a day on food. Likewise the Olympic pin-up Great Ormond Street Hospital which had self-reported that it spend just £4.90 on food – half as much as Sheffield Children’s Hospital. Oh no we don’t they said - we actually spend £7.64. And so it went on.

Now, it could be argued that whether a hospital accurately records and reports what it spends on patient food is not that important in the scheme of things. But if trusts are producing such wildly inaccurate figures for food spend – what else are they getting wrong?

From waiting times, to medication errors, to surgical outcomes: vital decisions in NHS are increasingly being made on the basis of data. And if hospitals are routinely misreporting statistics how many problems in the NHS are being hidden by inaccurate data?

Not only this. The food story also illustrates that the Department of Health and the senior ranks of the NHS are not necessarily checking the figures that hospitals provide them with before making policy on the back of them. If a journalist can find problems with statistics in an afternoon then surely it’s worth someone in the Department doing the same?

In a time of increasing budgetary pressures it is vital that NHS information systems are up to scratch. If not money will be spent badly, scandals like Mid Staffordshire will continue unnoticed and patient care will suffer needlessly.

The cost to the health service will be much more than a decent meal.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Analyst - Bristol

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Analyst is required to join the ...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY - An outstanding high level opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

For once, Kerry Katona had the right idea

Dom Joly
Should parents be allowed to take pictures at nativity plays?  

Ghosts of Christmas past: What effect could posting pictures of nativity plays have on the next generation?

Ellen E Jones
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick