Fake maths, digital saviours, and history repeating

Welcome to the Age of ‘fake maths’
We are, we are told, living in the age of “fake” news. With the NHS football zipping about the political playing field at near light speed, though, perhaps we should be charitable when the “responsible” media take their collective eye off the ball in the hunt for a good headline.

The culprit? The Institute of Fiscal Studies’ dodgy claim earlier this year that “every household” will need to find £2,000 annually in order to keep the NHS “afloat.”

This figure was, of course, complete bunkum, a construct derived by taking the additional funding estimated for the NHS in years to come and performing a simple act of division.

This hollow claim echoed emptily at the top of the news agenda over a holiday weekend, but did at least have one positive outcome, allowing Guardian columnist Phil McDuff to coin the term “fake maths”.

It was unclear what the IFS was really trying to say, other than enough to grab headlines.

For, as McDuff pointed out, if you’re sitting in a bar and Bill Gates walks in, you will, on average, be a millionaire. “But if you try to buy the most expensive bottle of champagne in the place, your debit card will still be declined.”


Will digital save us all?
For the more long-in-the-tooth hospital doctor, eyebrows may go northwards at comments by the US cardiologist tasked by ministers with reviewing how the NHS workforce must change “to deliver a digital future.”

Dr Eric Topol, whose final report is expected later in the year, is looking at the impact on staffing of advances such as wearable technology, artificial intelligence and genomics over the next 20 years.

Speaking to the Health Service Journal, Dr Topol suggested these new technologies should not lead to a reduction in staffing, but serve to liberate them to by creating more patient contact time and using “less on administrative and procedural tasks.”

Now, where have we heard that one before? Given the current tendency of squeezing ever more work out of the individual for no greater reward, old hands should be forgiven for reserving judgement, Dr Topol…


What goes around, comes around
If those who don’t know the past are doomed to repeat it, then is it just by chance that this year marks the 70th anniversary of the HCSA’s founding?

For within the Association’s archives lies a September 1974 edition of The Consultant (this publication’s forerunner) with an eerie resonance 24 years on: “The HCSA has called for the resignation of Lord Halsbury, the present Chairman of the Review Body on doctors’ and dentists’ remuneration.

“The HCSA no longer believes that the Review Body is independent, and is concerned at the way it accepts evidence from the Health Departments without question.”

Or, as correspondent KP Abel writes in the same edition, “It is about as independent of the Government and Treasury as the tail of the dog.”

History lessons and all that...