Scott Heald and Roger Halliday response to Ed Humpherson: The use of unpublished statistics in Scottish Government news release

Dear Ed,

The use of unpublished statistics in Scottish Government press release

Thank you for your letter of 8 July relating to the use of an unpublished statistics on routine serology (antibody) testing in a Scottish Government news release on 23rd June. This was an oversight, for which we apologise. As you are aware, there is very high demand for statistics relating to COVID-19 and the statistical teams in Public Health Scotland and Scottish Government are producing a large volume of statistics every day. On this occasion, the fact this statistic had not been published was missed by the teams in both organisations.

Scottish Government and Public Health Scotland have been working closely during the COVID19 period to ensure we are presenting as complete and coherent a picture on COVID-19 in Scotland as early as possible. We do recognise the importance of the statistics on antibody testing and the need to get these into the public domain. These data are currently still in development but, given the public focus on these statistics, Public Health Scotland will release an initial adhoc report on antibody testing on Wednesday 15th July. This will be published alongside the Public Health Scotland weekly COVID-19 report.

If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Scott Heald & Roger Halliday

 

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Ed Humpherson to Scott Heald and Roger Halliday: The use of unpublished statistics in Scottish Government news release

Ed Humpherson to Scott Heald and Roger Halliday: The use of unpublished statistics in Scottish Government news release

Dear Scott and Roger

The use of unpublished statistics in Scottish Government news release

On 23 June, a news release ‘COVID-19 antibody testing’ was published on the Scottish Government website detailing a letter written to NHS boards from the Chief Medical Officer Dr Gregor Smith about the use of serology testing for COVID-19 in Scotland. Within the news release, it reported that ‘so far, 4,431 antibody tests, for surveillance purposes, have been completed’. There is no reference to the data source of the figure quoted in the news release.

To date, there has been no publication of routine serology (antibody) testing in Scotland. As such, this figure cannot be verified. This is unacceptable for a figure of such importance used in a government news release.

We understand that wider plans are underway around the data collection and publication of serology information in Scotland. Nevertheless, our expectation, as set out in our public statement of 18 May, is that any data used publicly by Government should be published in an accessible form, with appropriate explanations of context and sources. Antibody testing data are of particular interest to the public and to ensure public confidence and equality of access, we urge you to publish the data quoted in the Scottish Government news release.

Yours sincerely

Ed Humpherson

Director General for Regulation

 

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Scott Heald and Roger Halliday response to Ed Humpherson: The use of unpublished statistics in Scottish Government news release

Scott Heald to Ed Humpherson: Publication of the first COVID-19 statistics weekly report by Public Health Scotland

Dear Ed

Publication of the first COVID-19 statistics weekly report by Public Health Scotland

Further to my letter of 23 April 2020, I wanted to update you on progress with our new weekly report on COVID-19 statistics in Scotland.  The first report was released on 6 May 2020.  This is a week later than originally intended to allow the team to undertake further quality assurance on the data presented and to ensure, where appropriate, that we maintained consistency with the figures published each day by Scottish Government.

The new report, accompanying dashboard and open data can be accessed via the Public Health Scotland website at:

https://www.publichealthscotland.scot/our-areas-of-work/sharing-our-data-and-intelligence/coronavirus-covid-19-data/

The content of the report and dashboard will be enhanced over the coming weeks with a range of additional statistics, some of which will be published weekly; others will be published as one-off “spotlights”.  We will outline our plans for this in advance so that users can understand our forward timetable.

In order to present a coherent picture on COVID-19 statistics in Scotland, we have aligned the timing of our weekly report with the weekly report on deaths which is published by National Records for Scotland (NRS).  I originally thought the NRS report was published at 2pm but that was a misunderstanding on my part – their report is published at 12 noon each Wednesday and I made the decision on Tuesday (5 May) to align the timing of the Public Health Scotland report, in the spirit of ensuring that both are published at the same time – we pre-announced this timing change on our website and notified key users of the change.

The Public Health Scotland report contains a link to the NRS website so that users can quickly access the weekly deaths report, and to the Scottish Government website so that users can access the daily data.

I’d be very happy to speak with you, or one of your team, about our new report.  Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Best wishes,

Scott Heald
Head of Profession for Statistics

Response from Ed Humpherson to Scott Heald: Publication of COVID-19 related statistics by Public Health Scotland

Dear Scott,

Thank you for your letter today. I am happy to confirm the exemption from the Code of Practice for Statistics’ standard publication time of 9.30am, to permit a later release time of 2.00pm each Wednesday for the PHS’s weekly COVID-19 report, starting on Wednesday 29 April.

Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic I welcome your endeavours to publish this release in line with the NRS weekly death release. The exemption from 9.30am publication, and publication at 2.00pm, aligns with other COVID-19 related statistics in Scotland. Your collaborative effort with other statistics producers in Scotland in providing a coherent picture of COVID-19 data to users is commendable and I appreciate your transparency around your forthcoming plans.

I also welcome your commitment to review and keep users informed publicly of any changes to your official statistics outputs during this period.

Yours sincerely

Ed Humpherson

Director General for Regulation

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Scott Heald to Ed Humpherson: Publication of COVID-19 related statistics by Public Health Scotland

Scott Heald to Ed Humpherson: Publication of COVID-19 related statistics by Public Health Scotland

Dear Ed

Publication of COVID-19 related statistics by Public Health Scotland

Thank you for your letter of 1st April 2020 welcoming the launch of Public Health Scotland.  As you indicated, we have launched in unprecedented times and Public Health Scotland is continuing the work being led by Health Protection Scotland, ISD Scotland and NHS Health Scotland to support the COVID-19 effort in Scotland.

We are currently working with key stakeholders, including Scottish Government and NHS Boards, to review our official statistics outputs during this period and we plan to publicise this on the Public Health Scotland next week (week commencing 27 April 2020).  Key statistical series will continue where we can but some will be paused due to a combination of data and staff availability to undertake the work in NHS Boards and Public Health Scotland.  We will keep users informed of our plans through-out the COVID-19 period.

In addition, we plan to release a weekly report on COVID-19 (starting on Wednesday 29 April), bringing together a range of statistics to provide a weekly summary for users.  We will be working with other statistical producers in Scotland, in particular Scottish Government and National Records for Scotland, to ensure we collectively present a coherent picture on COVID-19 for users. We would therefore like to publish this weekly bulletin at 2.00pm each Wednesday, at the same time NRS publishes its weekly report on death statistics. Accordingly, I would be grateful if you could indicate your support for Public Health Scotland moving the release time for the weekly report to 2.00pm.  I appreciate that this represents a departure from the requirements of the Code of Practice for Statistics, but consider it prudent to align with other COVID-19 related statistics in Scotland.

Public Health Scotland also provides a range of management information to Scottish Government for its daily reporting on COVID-19 statistics.  To complement the figures released by Scottish Government, Public Health Scotland has developed an interactive dashboard which gives a more visual presentation of the statistics.  The dashboard is currently in beta format (and can also be accessed via the Scottish Government’s daily reporting website) and we will enhance the content over time based on user feedback.   We will pre-announce any changes to the dashboard content so that users are aware of our plans in advance.

Please let me know if you have any questions about our plans.  Thank you.

Best wishes,

Scott Heald
Head of Profession for Statistics

Public Health Scotland Launch

Dear Scott

LAUNCH OF PUBLIC HEALTH SCOTLAND, APRIL 2020

I am writing to mark and welcome the official launch of Public Health Scotland today. As the largest producer of official statistics about health services and population health in Scotland, you have been faced with preparing for this day under the most challenging set of circumstances imaginable. You will no doubt have difficult decisions to make in the coming weeks and months as the impact of the pandemic on your statistical releases unfolds. We have published guidance to support all producers in these circumstances and we aim to be very flexible in our regulatory approach in light of these exceptional and difficult challenges.

We met with you and Angela Leitch, Public Health Scotland’s Chief Executive, last month to discuss your long-term plans for statistics production. Public Health Scotland’s role as an official statistics producer is clearly understood and well supported at a senior level in the organisation. The governance arrangements that were in place in ISD to ensure the trustworthiness, quality and value of statistics continue in the new organisation and your role and responsibilities as Head of Profession are well respected.

I would like to extend my best wishes to you and all your colleagues, old and new as you adapt to both your new organisation and the situation you are now facing. We look forward to working with you all.

Yours sincerely

Ed Humpherson

Director General for Regulation