This is a follow-up to our 2021 report, ‘Improving health and social care statistics: lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic‘
The COVID-19 pandemic reinforced the vital role that data and statistics play in our society and their ability to serve the public good. In our 2021 review of lessons learned during the pandemic we commended the remarkable response by producers of health and social care statistics to meet the increased public demand for data and statistics. This year (October 2021-October 2022) we have undertaken a follow-up to our 2021 review. Much like the UK’s health services, we have found a statistical system which is transitioning from pandemic crisis mode to living with COVID-19. The main challenge of this transition is sustainability. It has been possible to meet the increased analytical demands of the pandemic thanks to the extraordinary, dedicated efforts of producers. However, it is unclear how sustainable it will be for producers to maintain current levels of work.
In the context of the increased demands on producers, we identified four areas which support the production of statistics which serve the public good. Firstly, producers must horizon scan to understand what information people need and therefore prioritise effectively. We found good alignment between producers and users on which topics they consider to be of highest importance. These include statistics on waiting times, the indirect impact of the pandemic on services, social care and health inequalities. It will be important that producers continue to engage with each other and their users to ensure the ongoing alignment of priorities.
Once producers have a good understanding of user needs, they must ensure that data and statistics are made available in an accessible, transparent and timely way. While we have continued to intervene over the last year where lack of transparency is an issue, we have found that producers are quick to respond. There is a better understanding of the need for intelligent transparency and producers are becoming champions for it within their organisations. We are also encouraged by the ongoing efforts by producers to address existing data gaps, including on social care, mental health and ethnicity.
In order to publish statistics which provide maximum value for users, producers will often need to collaborate to share data and improve coherence. We found that topic-based groups have supported effective collaboration between producers and helped to increase the coherence and comparability of statistics for users. Although we identified more good examples of collaboration to share data, many of the same barriers we highlighted last year remain, including a lack of clear, consistent guidance on managing legal and information governance issues.
Finally, producers must continue to innovate to communicate their statistics in a clear and engaging way to a wide range of users. We found that producers have a greater appreciation for the need to communicate with, and meet the needs of, a range of different users. As a result, producers have learned that there may be a need to publish a variety of products and have made good use of different mediums for communicating their statistics, including dashboards and social media. We have identified a need for further guidance on the use of dashboards and Twitter to support producers to add value for users. We also identified a risk to health and social care statistics serving the public good if they are misused. We want to see producers being proactive to minimise this risk in future.Back to top