In 2015, following a series of assessments, we identified a range of systemic issues affecting health and care statistics in England. Fundamentally, there was no single individual or organisation with clear leadership responsibility and this had led to problems with the coherence and accessibility of these statistics. To bring about change, we have engaged with the system intensively over the past two years, with staff from the Office for Statistics Regulation convening and leading three Round Table meetings and two conferences seeking buy in to improvements and practical steps to bring about change.

We held the first Round Table meeting on 22 February 2016 involving senior decision makers in the health sector, then published a discussion paper ‘Health Statistics – Direction of Travel’ in March 2016 reflecting broad recognition of the issues we had identified. To kick-start engagement with the statistics user community, we ran a successful ‘Health and Care Statistics Summit’ in July 2016. To keep momentum going, we convened a second Round Table in December 2016 and the third Round Table in May 2017. Participants agreed that the short term focus would be on strengthening the system through the collaborative work plan set out by the English Health and Social Care Statistics Steering Group (EHSSG). This cross-producer group was set up in response to our intervention and is a key player in implementing operational change. It has published a vision and action plan and works through a set of theme groups.

In November 2017 we hosted a conference ‘Putting users’ needs at the heart of improving health and social care statistics’. This brought together eight EHSSG theme leads with users interested in statistics in their area and was judged by participants to be a useful model that could be replicated in future. However, many users are unaware of the positive work that statisticians are doing to improve health and social care statistics. This affects the confidence users have in the system and we can see that they are still frustrated with the pace of change.

As we stand back from our intensive convening role, we are pleased at the foundations that have been laid through the work of the EHSSG and are keen to see that the full potential of the group is realised. We have published a report on progress made and sent a letter to producers, setting out a series of recommendations which they need to act on to maintain momentum. Progress against these recommendations will be reviewed as part of our 2018/19 Regulatory Portfolio and we will intervene if progress is not sufficient. Considering the scale of the task, we expect to monitor progress for at least two years. We will also use compliance checks and assessments to look at statistical outputs and how they are developing.