Poor health data risk undermining NHS improvement

Fragmented collection and release of health data risks undermining efforts to improve NHS services, the head of UK government statistics has warned the DH.

Andrew Dilnot: poor data risk undermining NHS reform
Andrew Dilnot: poor data risk undermining NHS reform

The chairman of the UK Statistics Authority, which is responsible for safeguarding the publication of official statistics, has written to health secretary Jeremy Hunt about the issue.

In his letter, Andrew Dilnot warned that poor coordination of data collection and release results in ‘substantial obstacles facing the would-be user of health statistics’. 'We believe that there is a strong case for some specific but important changes in the way that health statistics are compiled and presented,’ he said.

Dr Dilnot argued that, unless problems with official health statistics were addressed, it may be difficult for the current reforms to improve services.

‘The NHS in England is in the midst of major organisational change, and there is an argument that this should be allowed to settle down before looking at statistical matters,’ he said. ‘But we see a real risk that, if the broader statistical issues are not addressed at this point, then it may be more difficult to make improvements subsequently.’

Dr Dilnot warned of the problems resulting from the ‘fragmented nature’ of official statistics on health. At present, there are 22 UK organisations recognised as producers of official statistics relating to health, and a further 21 public bodies that publish statistics relevant to health, he said.

‘There are over 200 separate National Statistical releases about health produced in the UK each year and hundreds more that are not released under the National Statistics banner – rather more than one release of statistics each working day,’ he added.

Dr Dilnot said this fragmentation of statistics made it difficult to compare statistics across the four UK administrations. ‘In the absence of an overarching UK Health Survey, or a repository of all health statistics, there are major obstacles to obtaining a good statistical picture of people’s health, at either UK level or for the individual countries on a consistent basis.’

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins


Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

Whitehall street sign

NHS officials doubled in two years as GP workforce dropped

Staff employed by NHS England and the DHSC doubled in two years from the start of...

Child coughing

NICE traffic light tool that helps GPs spot seriously ill under-5s 'unreliable'

NICE's 'traffic light' system - intended to help GPs identify risk of serious illness...

Pregnant woman receives COVID-19 vaccine

COVID-19 vaccine uptake in pregnant women rising but stark inequality remains

More than half of pregnant women are now double vaccinated against COVID-19 as uptake...

Vaccination tracker

UK COVID-19 vaccination programme tracker

GPs across the UK have led the largest-ever NHS vaccination programme in response...

GMC sign

Overseas-graduate GPs fare worse in medical tribunals due to lack of legal help

UK GPs who graduated overseas face worse outcomes in GMC cases because they are far...

Woman using HRT patch

Practical advice for GPs on prescribing HRT

GP menopause specialists Dr Louise Newson and Dr Olivia Jones provides an overview...