December 8, 2011 • 12:26 pm

“Lansley: My 60-step plan for the NHS will save 20,000 lives a year by improving quality of care”

Daily Mail, 7 December 2011 (article amended)

“More than 10,000 lives could be saved every year if the NHS were to outstrip average standards set internationally, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has said as he unveiled a new 60-step plan to boost patient outcomes”

The Guardian, Daily Mirror, Daily Express and Daily Star via Press Association, 7 December 2011

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley yesterday unveiled a new sixty-step plan to help save the lives of NHS patients.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, he spelt out details of the reforms, the most reported of which were the number of lives he expected would be saved by the improved monitoring scheme he was advocating.

However there was some confusion over exactly what outcome he hoped to achieve through these changes, with some media outlets reporting that 10,000 lives could be saved, and others running a figure that was double that total.

Indeed the Mail reported both figures in the same article today:

“Will Lansley’s 60-step NHS plan save 10,000 lives a year?”

“Nurses and other NHS staff will be judged against nearly 60 tough new goals designed to save more than 20,000 lives a year”

Daily Mail, 8 December 2011

So what exactly is going on here? Full Fact looked into the origins of the figures.

Analysis

A more detailed look at Mr Lansley’s interview with the Daily Telegraph showed that the Minister himself used both figures at different stages in his interview:

“If the new standards are achieved, 24,000 early deaths a year could be prevented from cancer and other long-term conditions, Mr Lansley believes”

“If you look at the question of how many patients in this country die who could live if they got the best health care, it is literally over 10,000 patients a year if we were simply to get to a place which is better than the average across the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries.” 

Andrew Lansley interview, Daily Telegraph, 7 Demember 2011

The nuance lost in many reports seems to be the actual subject dealt with by both figures. The 20,000 figure, approximated from 24,000, refers to premature deaths from long-term conditions, while the 10,000 figure is based on estimates derived from the OECD.

Further investigation on this front proved difficult however. The Department for Heath press notes regarding Mr Lansley’s reforms directed readers to the new ‘NHS outcomes framework’. This contained details surrounding the reforms, but lacked any specific explanation of the figures.

The only section of the report dealing with the lives that could be saved said simply that there were “plentiful” opportunities for “preventing people from dying prematurely”, without being any more specific.

The source of the international comparisons supposedly derive from an OECD report released last month: ‘Health at a Glance 2011′. However the report contained no fewer than 70 different comparisons of international standards of healthcare.

The most promising indicator with regard to the subject of Mr Lansley’s comments seemed to be that of ‘premature mortality’, which measures the number years of life lost to preventable deaths. However on this indicator the UK was already performing better than the OECD average.

After contacting the Department of Health for specific information as to which indicators the Health Secretary was using, little additional light was shed on the source of the figures. 

The DH confirmed only that Mr Lansley’s claims were based on “general” statistics rather than any one indicator, assuming the UK’s healthcare could become “among the best” on the OECD’s measures.

Conclusion

While we have nothing to suggest that the estimates used by Andrew Lansley are inaccurate, the fact that his own press office has not been able to provide us with the source or any further detail on them means that we – and the public – have very little reason to trust them either.

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