Assessment of compliance with the Code of Practice for Statistics: Statistics on Deaths in the Care Sector

28 October 2022
Last updated:
27 October 2022

Executive summary

Judgement on National Statistics Status

ES.1 Deaths in the Care Sector experimental statistics provide information on the number of deaths of residents in registered care homes in England and Wales and were developed by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) as part of its wider work to extend its portfolio of statistics about adult social care.

ES.2 In requesting this assessment, the ONS statistics team is demonstrating its commitment to produce statistics that meet the standards required of National Statistics and the Code of Practice for Statistics.

ES.3 We judge that these statistics require some improvements to meet the standards of the Code and we have identified five sets of improvements that ONS needs to make for the statistics to become National Statistics. ONS has committed to implement all these by September 2023.

Key findings

ES.4 ONS developed weekly provisional statistics in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic to support the management and public understanding of the main causes of deaths of people who were living in registered care homes. Worthy of note is the innovation and collaboration, both within and outside ONS, that the statistics team undertook for the speedy development of these statistics for the public good.

ES.5 ONS has released Deaths in the Care Sector annually as an experimental output. The development of these statistics as an experimental output is innovative, but the innovation and improvement has not yet gone far enough. The annual release has not reached its full potential for providing granular data or for describing deaths in the whole of the care sector. Users felt the published statistics lacked a wider context and they were unable to use the data to evaluate the quality of care given or place the impact of the pandemic within the context of other causes of death of residents of care homes.

ES.6 At the time of writing, ONS has not published some important metadata about these statistics – information about quality assurance processes, risks and mitigations for data quality, and methodological details. Users are therefore unaware of the strengths and limitations of the data. ONS is preparing this documentation and should ensure it fully explains uncertainty, or other limitations, and the mitigations applied to maximise data quality for users.

ES.7 Expert users raised concerns with us about the methods used to estimate the care home population which is used in the calculation of the age-specific mortality rate. ONS has told us that it is exploring alternate data sources to provide estimates of the care home resident population. The team should build on its initial work and engage with a wider range of stakeholders, including obtaining external assurance, to support the development of the statistics.

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