Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Labour wants to close A&E units, because longer ambulance journeys are better

You have to be careful with statistics. A few years a factoid was doing the rounds that went something like this 'a policeman will only walk in on two crimes in their entire career, so it is more efficient to have them in central police stations waiting for the public to report crimes'. This was based on a study that was apparently performed by people with no actual knowledge of police work. For example it ignored the deterrence effect of police on the beat, or the fact that obtaining community knowledge and intelligence is pretty difficult sitting on your backside in an office. However, that throw away summary of a piece of flawed research actually framed policing policy for a number of years, until people noticed that the crime rate was going up despite the supposed 'efficiency' of the new system. Now community policing and walking the beat is back in fashion and anything else is considered absurd.

Something similar appears to have been happening with health policy; the idea here being that a smaller number of specialist units would be better that local services. Now, there is some merit in this if you are treating a long-term chronic condition like cancer, unfortunately I know a bit about that subject. The point here is convenience is quickly outweighed by quality of medical treatment when it comes to that sort of disease. However, this is not always the case and the Telegraph summed up the result of some new work thus:
A study has found that the further patients travel in an ambulance to reach hospital the more likely they are to die.
Rain is also wet by the way, but sometimes the bleeding obvious has to be said because otherwise you can get into the situation where people argue that more police on the streets is not a good idea.

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