Scottish minister demands apology from Jim Murphy over NHS figures

Jim Murphy Jim Murphy obtained NHS figures on cancelled operations through freedom of information legislation

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Scotland's Health Secretary Shona Robison has demanded an apology from Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy, claiming he misrepresented NHS figures.

The MP said the rate of operations cancelled in the Glasgow area was significantly higher than in England.

But Ms Robison insisted Mr Murphy had "vastly inflated" the number of procedures that had not gone ahead.

Scottish Labour said it was forced to use Freedom of Information (FOI) laws to obtain its figures.

It believed the real issue was about a lack of "transparency".

The row over the statistics came as the Scottish government agreed to publish weekly A&E waiting times.

On Monday Mr Murphy claimed the rate of cancelled operations in the Glasgow area was significantly higher than south of the border.

Labour said data it obtained through FOI legislation had revealed 292 operations were cancelled in the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde area in two weeks between 19 October and 3 November 2014.

The party said this was the equivalent of 1.5 procedures per 100,000 people in the area, compared with 19,471 in England between 1 October and 31 December last year, the equivalent of 0.39 per 100,000.

'Unequivocal apology'

But Ms Robison said the Labour figures were "inflated". She went on to claim that Mr Murphy had deleted posts on social media after he realised he had been "exposed".

Ms Robison said: "He [Mr Murphy] must withdraw these outrageous claims and issue an immediate and unequivocal apology to NHS staff and patients.

"It is simply inexcusable for Jim Murphy to have vastly inflated the number of operations cancelled in Glasgow."

However, she said she "regrets" some 1,000 operations had been cancelled in Scottish hospitals since the start of the year.

Ms Robison added that it had been a difficult winter which had put additional pressure on beds but said that 500,000 operations were carried out in Scottish hospitals each year with the vast majority going ahead as planned.

A Labour spokesman said the Scottish government should have made the figures more easily available.

He said: "The real issue here is about transparency.

"The SNP government do not publish clear data on cancelled operations. That information is freely available in England.

"This means that people have to use Freedom of Information to find out about the state of their NHS.

"Even the British Medical Association has been forced to use freedom of information recently to get information on the NHS. This is simply not acceptable.

"The SNP need to come clean about the state of our NHS and publish all relevant data now - and that includes the number of cancelled operations."

'Welcome move'

The Scottish government announced it would publish figures on the performance of the NHS more regularly.

From March it will make public weekly waiting time statistics for Accident and Emergency departments, instead of publishing them every three months, bringing Scotland into line with England.

Ms Robison said: "I welcome the move to the weekly publication of A&E figures which will make NHS Scotland even more accountable to the public and patients who use their services.

"The new weekly Scottish A&E statistics will also contain more detail than the statistics that are published by NHS England."

Scottish Labour said it had been calling for such a move for "weeks".

The Scottish Government will also set up a new website to make statistics on NHS performance more accessible.

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