UKSA Chair Sir David Norgrove has written to Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to reiterate concerns with the official data on testing and highlight the importance of good data as the Test and Trace programme is taken forward.

Statistics published by government should shed light on key issues. They should enable the public to make informed decisions and hold the government to account. The public interest in data around COVID-19 is unquestionable, we have seen this come through our media and social media monitoring as well as from the emails we have been receiving.

The government have made a commitment to improve the information available on COVID-19, including additional data on COVID-19 testing and testing capacity, which are now being published as well as a commitment to provide greater clarity on data collection methods and associated limitations which we look forward to seeing.

However, as Sir David Norgrove said in his letter, the data still falls short of the expectations set out in the Code of Practice for Statistics.

In Sir David’s letter he sets out his view that the testing data should serve two purposes:

  1. To support understanding of the prevalence of COVID-19, including understanding more about where infections occur and who is infected.
  2. To manage the testing programme – and going forward the approach to test and trace. The data should allow government and the public to understand how effectively the programme is being managed.

The data currently published are not sufficiently clear or comprehensive to support these aims.

The Office for Statistics Regulation champions statistics that serve the public good and we will continue to work with officials in the Department of Health and Social Care as it works hard to develop these important data.