Lying, by paltering. Devious use of numbers suckered the Sun’s sub-editor and misleads the public. Feeds the trope that GPs are backsliding.


I’ve got a new word for you.

See if you can work it into your next meeting. 

Slide it in, without pausing for breath. Look wise. Use it and move on. See how people react.

I don’t know why I’ve not come across it before. Heaven knows I’ve had good cause to use it…

… use it to death, even. In my line of work it would have been indispensable. It should be in the tool-kit of every word-smith.

It’s an article in the Sun that got me revved-up, looking for a new word that would describe what was happening. In a headline the Sun announce;

… one in six people have waited at least two weeks to see a GP in England in the past year.

Oh dear, more shame on the NHS. Another kicking for the GPs. Hang on…

… apart from the obvious that five in six people are getting to see their GP very promptly and without waiting…

… there is the little matter of a conversation that goes like this.

Well, Mrs Bloggs. Here’s a prescription. Pop along to the chemist and be sure to take the pills three times a day. 

Let’s see if they make a difference. On the way out make an appointment to see me in three weeks and we’ll have another look…

That appointment is very likely to be counted as someone waiting to see a GP.

The article goes on to describe some regional variations in waiting times and no attempt to explain why. I suspect distribution of practices will have something to do with it.

To be fair to the Sun (not something you’ll see me write very often), it looks very like they’ve been suckered by a Lib-Dems press release.

The crafty lot are guilty of my new word… I’m very proud of it… here it is.


It means…

… well, here’s an example. When an estate agent tells a potential buyer that an unpopular property has had ‘lots of enquiries’ and they know full-well everyone who has looked at it has run a mile.

Which is why the British public trust politicians even less than estate agents.

Lying, by paltering. Devious use of numbers suckered the Sun’s sub-editor and misleads the public. Feeds the trope that GPs are backsliding.

The Lib-Dems press office must be a nest of slithering palterers. 

Conveniently over looking some very favourable numbers and hack-off everyone working in primary care. After headlines like this, I doubt there’ll be many Lib-Dem votes from GP practices.


the three month rolling average of GP appointments is just over 24 million a month. In October last year the number went up to over 32m.

Despite the fact…

… the full-time equivalent number of GPs has increased from 34,392 in September 2015 to 36,358 in April 2023. 

I make that a couple of thousand more GPs, in getting on for eight years.

Between February 2023 and April 2023, 70% of all appointments in general practice were face to face.

How do I know all this?

Do I have access to some secret stash of data… no.

Does the DH+ send me secret messages… no… they won’t even send me press releases!

Does NHSE comm’s keep me up-to-date… no… they won’t talk to me!

I got the information from where you can get it… the Health Foundation’s excellent GP data tracker.

Hence, I know when the Lib-Dems are paltering…

…they may have gold on their banners and claim to be the home of all that’s green, but their press management looks… paltering… whatever colour that turns out to be… khaki, probably.

The article in the Sun also rolls-in a poll from Pulse, the GP trade magazine, about going on strike;

A poll of 362 GP partners … found … 31% would [go on strike] for a week.

There are 16,563 GP partners…. 112 might go on strike for a week. A similar number might chose to wear a red gardenia or buy a latté… who knows?

We don’t… it’s all meaningless. The sample is way too small.

Can we expect everyone to tell the stripped-pine truth all the time? 

Probably not. 

But, if we are to live our lives up to our armpits in a conspiracy of muddy waters, accepting that paltering is a new truth, we’ll end up drowning in suspicion and trust goes out the window.

Without trust we have nothing.

News and Comment from Roy Lilley
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Reproduced at by kind permission of Roy Lilley.