We’ve been hanging on for 7600 years

MP Fiona Mactaggart announced this amazing statistic at a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee the other day.  ‘Stressed Britons spent a total of 76 centuries on hold to Government phone lines last year.’  It later turned out that she was out by a factor of ten and that she meant to say 7.6 centuries which is equivalent to approximately 400 million minutes.

I have assumed here that there are 24 hours in a day.  If she was talking about a reasonable working day this number could be halved to 200 million minutes

This all sounds dreadful expect that there are a lot of people and a lot of calls and without this information we really have no idea if this is good or bad.  Remember that information without context is meaningless and without knowing the number of calls that were made it is very difficult to assess.  We need to be vigilant to this kind of alarmist use of statistics as my own calculations will show. 

I estimate that I wait in a queue caused by a private sector company for an hour a day.  This could be behind a lorry in traffic, standing in a shop waiting for services or hanging on the phone.  I waited twenty minutes for some fish and chips alone on Sunday.  Now my hour a day adds up to 21,900 minutes in a year.  We all know that there are more than 60 million people in this country and so if I am to assume that we all have a similar experience then this comes to a whopping 1.314 trillion minutes in a year.

So, by my quick and obviously exaggerated calculations I could surmise that the private sector is actually much worse than the public sector in causing delays by a factor of between 3000 and 6000 times and a much greater contributor to national woes.  I could surmise but I won’t as with all statistics they need to be put in context and challenged.

So it could be that we have been hanging on for 25,000 centuries after all.

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