Leaked figures obtained by Dr Kirkland revealed that record numbers of patients spent more than four hours in accident and emergency units in England in January 2017. During a difficult winter for the NHS, the figures appeared to show the month was the worst in the past 13 years. The figures also suggested record numbers of people waited longer than 12 hours for a hospital bed once seen in A&E. The BMA responded by saying the prime minister could no longer “bury her head in the sand” over increasing pressure in the NHS and it accused the government of failing to grasp the seriousness of the situation. A spokesman from the Department of Health said the vast majority of patients were seen and treated quickly, and busy periods in hospitals were supported by an extra £400 million of funding.
The figures were obtained during at a critical time where the situation in A and E was called being called ‘a humanitarian crisis’ by some groups.
Dr Kirkland reported this online and on the BBC News Channel. The figures were the lead story from BBC Breakfast to the BBC News at Ten. It was widely covered by other news outlets.
The Office for Statistics Regulation at the UK Statistics Authority wrote in February 2017 to NHS England, NHS Improvement and NHS Digital, highlighting concerns about the timeliness of publication of data as a result of the leaks. As a result time, the time between the data being collected and published was reduced.