A chart that answers the question “Is A & E really in crisis?”

NHS Waiting Times pie chart for blog

The media continue to report on the NHS crisis in A & E with sad and worrying stories about what is happening in our hospitals.

But are these stories just a few unrepresentative one-offs that the media have found to create a false, but newsworthy story? Or is this a more widespread problem?

The bar chart I did on this issue is here, but on reflection I think the simple pie chart above may help illuminate things even more starkly.

There are 254 Trusts that have an A & E department, but this chart only looks at the “type 1” A and E departments. Why only look at type 1 departments?

Type 1 departments are the ones that a consultant led 24 hour service with full resuscitation facilities and designated accommodation for the reception of A & E patients. The type 1 department are the ones that deal with the most serious and life threatening cases.

Long waiting times in non-type 1 A & E departments that only deal with minor injuries is unpleasant for patients and clearly unacceptable. However, long waiting times in type 1 departments can lead to serious long-term complications and even fatalities. These are the ones we should all be the most concerned about, hence the focus on the 140 type 1 A & E departments.

I’m not going to pass any partisan comment on whether Jeremy Hunt and the coalition government are doing a good a job running our NHS, as I the chart can tell its own story.

The data for the graph came from the Guardian data blog here.

A geeky data visualisation aside

Data visualisation geeks who follow the general principles espoused by data visualisation gurus such as Edward Tufte and Stephen Few may balk at my use of a pie chart. I agree with both of them that for charts with more than two categories of data, a bar chart is always easier to interpret. However, for a chart with binary categories, such as with this data, a pie chart can be an easy to understand chart.

If you want to understand bar charts are generally better than pie charts, take a look below.

Whhy bar charts are better than pie chartsFor more info and to read the site where the example above comes from, go here:

http://tips.vovici.com/content/111031_swb

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