In February, I asked NHS England and NHS Digital to consider publishing more timely statistics on accident and emergency performance. In particular, I asked them to look at the time lag between collection and publication of the statistics.
They propose to reduce the time lag from 6 weeks to 2 weeks, along with changes to provide more timely data in other important areas, such as ambulance services.
This is great news for users of these statistics, and it fits with the Office for Statistics Regulation’s broader drive to improve the coherence, accessibility and value of health and social care statistics.
Over the past two years I have focused a lot on health and social care statistics. This reflects the underlying value of these statistics. They have the power to help save lives and to help make life more comfortable for those who need it – and of course it has ever been thus: iconic figures in the history of statistics like John Snow and Florence Nightingale crop up frequently (perhaps to the point of cliché…) in speeches and presentations about the power of statistics to change lives.
The Office for Statistics Regulation identified the need for improvements in the accessibility and coherence of and insight provided by health and social care statistics in England in 2015. Since then we’ve proceeded by dialogue, with producers (though a series of round tables) and with users, through our health summit in July 2016.
After our most recent round table, we’re more confident that producers of these statistics are taking ownership of the project to improve health and care statistics. We decided that this work no longer needed us to organise or chair discussions. Producers themselves will carry on this cross-departmental dialogue.
The changes to accident and emergency statistics announced today further reflect progress that producers are making.
My team is continuing to review health and care statistics to ensure user needs are being met and we are also going to be investing time in holding a second ‘Health and Social Care Statistics Summit’ in the late Autumn. If you would like to participate in this or have any thoughts on areas we should be looking to do more work – whether commending progress or seeking improvements – please let me know.
And of course it’s far too early to declare victory. Health and social care statistics, with their power to save and improve lives, will remain a key priority for me. I look forward to and expect many more cases of reform and change.