Mediawatch – Media ignores new report that proves Scotland’s A&E wait times are MUCH better than England’s


Scotland and England were releasing different figures until now

Scotland and England have been measuring wait times in A&E differently – Scotland’s figures are from “time of arrival” but England’s NHS only started the clock from the time of “decision to admit” – that is not what most people mean when they talk about their A&E wait time and it made England’s figures look better than Scotland’s. 

After a long campaign, NHS England has started to produce comparable figures to Scotland’s – and they show a really significant difference, with Scotland performing a lot better

Surely this new insight into how Scotland’s NHS is performing has made headlines?

Surely Scotland’s media would have been interested in this? There was a feature on BBC Scotland’s The Nine; The Times Scotland did a front-page story right? No – nothing. The story was highlighted by the groups TalkingupScotland and – but was glaringly ignored by the mainstream media. 

Instead, there were the usual bad headlines. “Scotland’s shocking cancer waiting times” in The Scotsman; “Less than two-thirds of patients seen in four hours” in The Glasgow Evening Times; The Herald’s “Patient Satisfaction Drops to Lowest Levels Ever” – perhaps in part because of the relentlessly negative coverage? 

Why does Scotland’s media show such “bad news bias”?

Why did the release of comparable English figures that show a really positive comparison between Scotland and England get universally stonewalled by Scotland’s TV and print media? It seems like a clear case of “bad news bias” by Scotland’s mainstream media, which has been using the different figures as if they were the same for years.

The background to the new figures

TuS reported: “After a long-running campaign by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM), NHS England has altered the way it reports monthly performance data on long waits by patients attending its major (Type 1) A&E departments.”

“In evidence to a House of Lords committee (on 19th January 2023), the prevailing practice of measuring 12-hour waits from the time of a ‘decision to admit’ (DTA) rather than from ‘time of arrival’ (TOA – as in Scotland) was described by Dr Adrian Boyle, President of the RCEM as ‘a fundamentally dishonest way of reporting data. It is hiding and doing our patients a disservice by minimising a very serious problem’.”

“NHS England has relented and published the first set of monthly data (for February 2023) on 12-hour waits measured from time of arrival at A&E to admission, transfer or discharge.”

Another anomaly to watch out for is how NHS emergency waiting times get collated and reported by NHS England and then re-reported by UK media. A&E depts in Scotland are sometimes compared with English figures that include minor injury units, where wait times tend to be shorter. 

A one-sided view that the NHS is failing 

The figures on A&E waiting times are not good enough and there is a great deal of room for improvement. But creating a one-sided narrative that Scotland’s NHS is failing doesn’t help anyone – except those who may seek to benefit from privatisation. 

Scotland’s NHS is actually performing quite a lot better than its neighbour. Two-thirds of people are seen at an A&E department here within four hours of arrival. That is closer to half for people living down south.

Scotland also has more doctors and nurses per 100,000 people and a more generous training system, with bursaries and free tuition. Nurses in Scotland now earn about £2,500 more on average than in England.

Scotland’s NHS is performing better than south of the border

Scotland’s NHS possesses (per 100,000 people):

Only with independence can Scotland protect its NHS

The Scottish Government has been able to make some different decisions about how the NHS is organised. They have focused more investment on it. But there is only so much Scotland can do to protect the NHS when Scotland is under the ultimate control of Westminster. 

Only independence can give Scotland’s parliament the powers to improve, staff and fund Scotland’s NHS properly and protect it from creeping Westminster privatisation. Labour and the Conservatives are committed to Brexit so they need a trade deal with the US, who will demand that American healthcare companies have access to all NHS contracts.

Find out more about Scotland’s NHS and independence at:




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