Chief Statistician’s update – March 2017

Darllenwch y dudalen hon yn Gymraeg

Improving the coherence of monthly NHS statistics

Activity and performance statistics for the Welsh NHS have been published by the Welsh Government since the start of devolution. They are some of our most frequently used data, providing clear and authoritative data on the performance of the health system in Wales.

Over time we have expanded from some information being available quarterly only and having a smaller set of data, to having a wide range of NHS statistics available on a monthly basis.

Although moving to publishing quarterly analytical releases has given better insight and context around individual areas, since data are published at different times of the month it is difficult for users under the current publication model to get a coherent picture of the NHS, taken in context of both activity and performance, on a monthly basis.

To achieve more coherence we are proposing, from April, to start to publish all of our monthly NHS activity statistics on a single day each month. All of the existing data will still be available monthly through StatsWales and we will produce an overarching commentary. To allow you to explore the data better and to see it in one place, we will also be making available an online tool.

The reasons and benefits for changing the publications

Current publication of monthly health statistics are over various days, in different parts of our website, and lack context or an overall narrative on performance. There is no single presentation of the datasets together in one place if for example you wanted to quickly consider A&E performance in the context of ambulance activity or referrals from GPs.

Moving to publish our monthly NHS activity releases on one day would provide you with a more rounded and integrated picture of activity and performance and give a more coherent view of the NHS in Wales. Using the new Open Data functionality on StatsWales also gives us an opportunity to make use of this by producing an online tool which would give you the ability to interact with and explore the data.

The UK Statistics Authority see there is benefit to those using statistics in being able to present a rounded and balanced picture of one subject area in a coherent manner. We aren’t the only ones to be moving to more coherent reporting, recently the Office for National Statistics has moved to a “theme day” approach for economic statistics, which has meant grouping outputs on the same day.

What will be included in the monthly release

Initially, the seven monthly NHS activity releases will be included. These are Ambulances, A&E, Delayed Transfers of Care (DTOC), Referral to Treatment (RTT), Diagnostic and Therapy waiting times (DATS), Cancer waiting times and Outpatient referrals.

The monthly round of releases will continue to be published to StatsWales, with the same range of data available but all of it published on one day.

To move to this coherent reporting, the publication of some information will be bought forward, whilst some others would be moved back. Typically the unscheduled care data (ambulances, A&E and DTOC) is available much sooner than the planned care data.

To make the data available as soon as we can we would publish the unscheduled care data for, say, February alongside the planned care data for January. The publication of ambulance information would be bought forward by around a week, but others would be a little later.

The planned publication dates for the next six months will be usually the second to last Thursday of the month:

April 20
May 18
June 22
July 20
August 17
September 21

In future we are looking to add in additional NHS activity and performance data, we will of course be keeping you up to date on those developments.

How we will publish the data

All of the existing data that are published will continue to be. In addition an interactive tool will be developed and will have three sections:

  1. Demand/Activity – eg. A&E attendances, ambulance calls, referrals
  2. Performance – eg. performance against A&E targets, RTT etc
  3. Context – eg, median time in A&E, median ambulance response times, median RTT waits

This tool will be enhanced and developed further following the initial release.

A summary headline will also be produced each month commenting on the data and drawing out key trends and notable changes in the data. On an annual basis we will publish summary analytical releases reviewing the trends and the underlying factors behind those trends. These will replace the current quarterly releases and will give us greater scope to analyse the data and be innovative with what we are doing.

I would welcome your views on these changes and what impact it might have on your use of the data. For any specific comments relating to these changes please contact stats.healthinfo@wales.gsi.gov.uk.

I’d welcome views on any other statistical topics, including those discussed in other updates – please email stats.info.desk@wales.gsi.gov.uk or contact us on Twitter, ‘StatisticsWales’.

Glyn Jones
Chief Statistician

March 2017