Archive for May 16, 2012

Lies, damned lies and dodgy statistics

May 16, 2012

Disraeli; credit where it is due…

There are some stories that are too good to pass up without further comment; even if they have little relationship to local government.

This from Yahoo news is one such gem. Under the headline ‘25,000 men need an obstetrician or gynaecologist every year’ the story, originating from the Telegraph, reports that:

Official figures from the NHS appear to have proved that old adage true, as they show that Britain has tens of thousands of ‘male mothers’. They discovered that 17,000 men were recorded as having been admitted to hospital for obstetric services -a specialism for pregnant women and their babies – and 8,000 to see a gynaecologist; while another 20,000 apparently needed to see a midwife.

They also identified a steady increase in the numbers of children and teenagers attending geriatric services, to over 3,000 between 2009 and 2010, and more than 1,600 adults over 30 using child psychiatry services.

The problem for the NHS, and for other public bodies who use statistics like this to run their services, is that bad data like this can then lead to bad decisions. Increasingly public services rely on large quantities of statistics.

This is entirely rational. After all, public services don’t have profit to base their decisions on and the other ultimate means of determining success are elections and they are fairly blunt instruments.