Friday, 15 May 2020

Spaghetti Numbers

Having read and heard all sorts of bullshit being spouted based on Covid statistics, especially by Bawjaws and his merry band of cheils thit windnae ding I thought I would attempt a information piece on how to look at the medical statistics being spewed from your TV, radio and other media and how they are manipulated to try and make the Westminster Government, especially, look good.

Here goes; we all have or have had teeth.

So at 16 years of age the average adolescent will have around 28 of said teeth in their mouth (note the statistical term "average" this means potentially some could have more and some less)

A study which compared the number of decayed, missing or filled teeth (DMFT) in England and Wales showed that between 1975 and 1985 the average DMFT had gone from 7.8 to 3.1 among 16 year olds.

You would think this massive improvement in dental health in your average 16 year old would cause Government to say "Well done NHS dentists, keep up the good work." but we are talking about a Thatcher Government here.

What the study also indicated was dental decay in under 16's was concentrated more in social groups 4 & 5, in other words increasingly a disease of those at the bottom of the pile (non Tory voters) where accessibility to care was hampered by few dental practices being willing to set up in the estates or inner cities where these folk were.

The preventive approach would be to encourage more dentists to set up practice in these "decay black spot' areas by incentivising inner city dental practices, just as the NHS in England had for GP practices, and shifting funding to a more preventive and health educational approach.

The Tories decided what was actually needed was fewer dentists in the UK, since decay rates were clearly dropping, therefore they would be shutting five dental training hospitals across the UK. This at a time when the UK already had the highest average (that word again) dentist to patient ratio in Europe at 1 dentist to 2800 patients compared to 1 to 1200 in Germany and 1 to 800 in Denmark. On top of this NHS England Dentistry was already heavily reliant on dentists from the EU and Commonwealth filling practice vacancies.

What this was really about was obvious, it was a move to force dentists out of the NHS in England in the same way the Opticians had been driven out, earlier in the 80's, and into the hands of big corporate ownership. To add injury to insult the Tories used this reduced decay "evidence" to cut funding for the very area which had delivered this improvement, children's dentistry, and doing exactly the opposite of what was required on preventive health grounds for those most at risk.

The Tories and their media pals played the "greedy dentists card" and by and large the real impact was never understood by the English public until too late, when dentists took the hint, left the NHS in large numbers and MPs suddenly received lots of angry letters from constituents because they could no longer access NHS Dentistry, meanwhile the DMFT for 16 year olds started climbing back up and is now 4.5.

If you are still with me then let's look at the ramifications of what the "R" number actually means rather than the back to work spin the Tories are running with.

The "R" number for untrammeled Covid 19 remains at 3 (one person with Covid 19 will infect 3 others) while the "R" number for Covid 19 during "lockdown" is running at just under 1 in Scotland.

All this tells us is "lockdown" has given a degree of control in reducing the spread of the virus, it does not say the virus, itself, is any less infectious than it was in Wuhan or Italy or Spain. The evidence from Germany and Spain where "lockdown" restrictions were lifted is, the virus remains a nasty wee bastard and cases of Covid 19 are back on the rise in those two countries.

Currently we are reliant on Covid 19 mutating to a less infectious variant which has an "R" of less than 1 or an effective vaccine which, in effect, does the same thing, to enable any return to normality ("norm" is just another way to say "average" in statistics).

If you look at the recent BBC Scotland Disclosure's claims about "SNP Baaaad" you do not need to have done a medical statistics course to see the improbability (another statistics word) of the claims of 2,000 lives that could have been saved given the number of actual Covid 19 deaths which have occurred, to date, in Scotland.

I could spin this BBC hype as; the Scottish Government should have been able to resurrect at least 20 folk who did not die from Covid 19, allowing for standard error in "Statistical what iffery" of 10%, resurrection is just as probable based on the evidence of the BBC claim.

In the hands of Westminster politicians there clearly are "statistics, statistics and damned lies" which, sadly, deflects from the important indicators and scope for guidance medical statistics can give us, in these troubled times.

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