Improving health and social care statistics: lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic

7 October 2021
Last updated:
31 January 2023


Lesson 10

The pandemic highlighted the value of timely health and social care statistics.

However, there is always a balance between timeliness, quality and resource, and producers must be transparent about this with users.


The response of producers to publish close to real-time data was remarkable – for example, daily updates on COVID-19 cases and deaths. Producers demonstrated the ability to consider user needs when balancing timeliness against quality – for example, quickly moving to daily vaccination data at the start of 2021 as public interest in the success of the vaccination programme intensified. However, it is also important that producers consider the resource implications of producing such frequent data. We discussed in lesson 6 the increased pressures on staff that have resulted from the pandemic. As society comes out of the pandemic, we are supportive of producers reviewing the frequency of their COVID-19 statistics in terms of how useful and meaningful this is for users. In some cases, this process may lead to rationalising outputs which are no longer as relevant, and in others it may involve further developing or regularising releases which have so far been ad-hoc.


Producers should consider the trade-offs between timeliness and accuracy of statistics and clearly explain decisions taken on these to users.

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