Wednesday, 18 May 2011

A Groundhog Day speech that left me speechless

On Monday 16 May 2011, our Prime Minister delivered a speech at Ealing Hospital in which he included the following:

"If we had cancer survival rates at the average in Europe, we’d save 5,000 lives a year"

"If we had respiratory disease care equivalent to the average in Europe, we’d save 2,000 lives a year"

"If we could prevent and treat chronic liver disease and cirrhosis as well as the European average, we could save 550 lives a year"

I find this truly astonishing. I wrote a blog post about this on Saturday 9 April, highlighting that the cancer 'fact' was incredibly dodgy, and that neither the Department of Health nor Number 10 has even provided a source for the respiratory disease 'fact'. For over a month now I have been requesting a source and I am still waiting.

The 550 lives a year 'fact' is a new one and wasn't one of the three 'facts' included in the glossy pamphlet published on Wednesday 6 April. Out goes 750 lives saved from heart disease, in comes 550 lives saved from chronic liver disease and cirrhosis. Whichever 'fact' you look at however, the fact is that neither has been referenced or sourced.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not deluded enough to think that anyone in power reads or cares what I write or say. But when Ben Goldacre subsequently published this article in The Guardian on Saturday 16 April, I did think that maybe, just maybe this would give the Coalition Government pause for thought (and what more fitting time to pause for thought than during a 'natural' break in the passage of the NHS reform bill, and even better - during a national listening exercise!) and reflection as to whether they really want to keep quoting such unsubstantiated and potentially misleading figures.

Am I the only one who gets incredibly, unbelievably and supremely annoyed, irritated and ticked off about all this? 

Fiddle your expenses and you'll get pilloried. Peddle dodgy facts and if you do it enough times and for long enough, then the minority that query them either lose the will or have no voice to challenge them in the first place (or both).

Dear David Cameron - if you are claiming that right now we could save 7,550 lives per year, please could you provide full referenced and sourced material to explain and substantiate that fact. If you can do that, then I for one couldn't care less if you've got one of these behind your back or stuck down your trousers.


Wordle: Groundhog Day


  1. Excellent stuff – and the previous post about AV was excellent, too. We don't live in a true democracy when the electorate can so easily be manipulated by liars.

  2. Great stuff. Keep getting 'ticked off' The Anonymous Majority do too

  3. Thanks very much both! There's more tick where that off came from... just a matter of finding the time to get it out!