The BBC’s Scotland Editor has been forced to make an embarrassing apology after grossly inflating the number of people who waited more than four hours in Scottish A&E departments.
Sarah Smith issued the apology after claiming 100,000 people had been forced to wait longer than four hours in the week ending December 31st.
In a news item broadcast on the BBC News at Six, Smith told viewers: “Last week over one hundred thousand patients waited more than four hours to be seen.”
Official figures revealed the actual number of people who attended A&E in the week in question was 25,865, of that the number who had to wait longer than four hours was just over 5000.
The error was immediately spotted by keen eyed viewers and circulated on social media and there were calls for an apology from Ms Smith. The under fire BBC Editor issued a statement on social media in which she apologised for the error.
The message on her twitter account read: “This week I made a factual error in a report on the BBC 6 o’clock news. For which I apologise. I mistakenly used the annual figure for A&E waiting times in Scotland instead of the weekly one. As soon as I realised my error I changed the report for all subsequent broadcasts.”
The apology was not enough to placate many on social media who felt an apology on twitter was inadequate given the erroneous broadcast would have been seen by millions on national television.
Online commentator David Hooks said: “Seems nobody is happy with this Twitter apology and most agree this apology and correction should be done on air with the same prominence as the original error. The question is how that mistake was made. 100K people visiting A&E in a week didn’t make you go ‘that can’t be right’?”
Others questioned how the error could have been made in the first place. Polling expert James Kelly tweeted: “A rare apology from Sarah Smith is welcome, but to have made the mistake in the first place she must have either been unaware that the population of Scotland is 5 million, or thought it was plausible that 2% of the entire population spent 4 hours in A&E within a single week.”
Smith has faced of criticism from many pro-independence activists with some claiming her links to the Labour party and the British establishment call into question her impartiality. Her late father John was leader of the Labour party, and her mother Elizabeth was made a life peer in 1995.
In the days following last year’s snap General Election, writing in her capacity as the BBC’s Scotland Editor, Smith claimed that the result meant it was “almost impossible” for the SNP to argue Scottish voters wanted another independence referendum because sixty percent had voted for parties opposed to a second ballot.
The ‘100,000’ broadcast has resulted in complaints to the BBC. To date the corporation has issued no official response.
Meanwhile in a bizarre reversal, a BBC news item broadcast days after Smith had inflated A&E figures for Scotland, a colleague under-reported the same long wait figures for English A&E. The reporter gave a figure of 3000 for the number of people waiting longer than four hours in England. The actual figure was 69,000.