An assessment of the trustworthiness, quality and public value of the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) Avoidable Mortality statistics.

Judgement on National Statistics status

Users value ONS’s statistics on Avoidable Mortality, recognise the high standards applied in their production, and consider them to be trustworthy. We judge that these can be designated as National Statistics once ONS have taken the three actions outlined in the report to ensure the statistics meet the highest standards of the Code of Practice for Statistics.

Key findings

ONS first published Avoidable Mortality statistics as experimental statistics in May 2012 following user demand from a range of organisations. From the outset, the definitions applied and analyses conducted have been shaped by input from users, and this continues today.

The statistical team is committed to regularly reviewing the avoidable mortality definition to ensure it keeps up-to-date with advances in treatments and public health interventions.

Currently the team liaises with users of these statistics by various means and has now established a new stakeholder interest group to consult with and involve in decisions more regularly and efficiently. This will help ensure the statistics remain relevant to users and further enhance the transparency of decisions taken.

The statistical team recognises that some users would prefer the headline statistics to be released sooner and for additional analyses to be released alongside the main bulletin. We support the team’s efforts to speed up the production and release of the statistics. Communication of these plans is important and the new stakeholder interest group will help to ensure that users of the statistics are involved in, and more informed about, decisions around release timing.

Based on the detailed published methodology documents and the views of clinical experts, we are confident that sound methods are used to produce these statistics and appropriate steps are taken to arrive at suitable definitions, assure the quality of the underlying data and conduct the analysis.

Independent and highly specialised medical and public health advice is provided by an internationally recognised expert in clinical coding who seeks additional input from other experts where necessary. This advice is critical to ensuring that definition decisions are taken appropriately. ONS should ensure that it works with relevant experts to develop a succession plan to ensure that continuity is maintained if a change of advisor occurs.

ONS has committed to provide more information to reflect the recent expansion of the statistics to include data from Scotland and Northern Ireland, where there are different approaches to assure the quality of death recording.

The statisticians demonstrate strong expertise and sound professional judgement. Improvements to the transparency of some processes and decisions have been made in the course of this assessment; we have no further requirements here.

Related Links:

Confirmation as National Statistics (March 2019)

Ed Humpherson to Iain Bell (November 2018)

Ed Humpherson to Amy Wilson (November 2018)