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6 Feb, 2018 12:10

May forced to backtrack on figures used to batter Jeremy Corbyn in embarrassing Tory climb down

May forced to backtrack on figures used to batter Jeremy Corbyn in embarrassing Tory climb down

Theresa May’s office has been forced to admit the prime minister misused figures on hospital waiting times to attack Labour in another embarrassing climb down for Downing Street.

The head of the UK statistics watchdog announced findings this week that May’s comparison of hospital waiting times in Tory-run England and Labour-led Wales were totally invalid.

Chair of the UK Statistics Authority Sir David Norgrove revealed how May has been found to have manipulated data in an explosive row in Parliament with opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn. Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones lodged the formal complaint after Prime Minister’s Questions on January 25.

Corbyn came at May armed with the latest A&E waiting times figures – the worst-ever in the NHS’ history in England. May retorted by comparing them with Wales – where the devolved government is run by Labour.

The UKSA assessed the claims which May used, based on the number of people who were forced to wait more than 12 hours in casualty departments.

However, what she failed to tell thousands of viewers and hundreds of MPs is that the clock starts in England after a person has been admitted, but begins in Wales as soon as they walk through the door.

“If he wants to talk about figures and about targets being missed, yes, the latest figures show that, in England, 497 people were waiting more than 12 hours,” she said. “But the latest figures also show that, under the Labour Government in Wales, 3,741 people were waiting more than 12 hours.”

Norgrove, whose complaint said “selective misuse of statistics like this does not allow for a fair debate on the NHS,” said he was pleased with the finding. Adding, “You are right to say that the comparison is not valid.

“The figure used for England refers to the accident and emergency wait time from the decision to admit to admission into another part of the health service. The figure used for Wales represents the entire time patients wait from arriving to leaving accident and emergency services, including the time from decision to admit to actual admission.”

Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth was quick to deride the PM for the blunder.

“This is an embarrassing slap down for an increasingly gaffe-prone Prime Minister,” he told HuffPost. “I would expect her to correct the record in the Commons and instead explain why because of Tory underfunding NHS England bosses have been forced to abandon the A&E target for the next financial year. English patients deserve better.

“Research such as the OECD Review of Health Care Quality showed that there was no consistent picture of one nation’s health system performing better than another.”

Downing Street said it accepted the finding, but did not make clear if May will backtrack in Parliament this week.

“We would accept the assessment of the UKSA,” the PM’s official spokesman said. “But the point that the Prime Minister was making – in terms of the fact that the A&E in England performed better than A&E in Wales in relation to this target – still stands.”

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