In my update of 23 March 2020, I outlined how we intended to review our forthcoming data collections, research activity and outputs in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. This has been undertaken to prioritise the response to the current situation – both in terms of our own resources within Welsh Government, but importantly also those of our data providers who are delivering key front-line services across the health, social care and public service sectors. This note provides an update on our plans.
Since that update we have also prioritised the development and publication of new statistical outputs to inform the public during the pandemic. We have started publishing weekly data on NHS capacity, attendance at local authority settings for children, deaths of care home residents and other information such as surveys on public views and behaviours. As far as possible these outputs are pre-announced and published through our statistics and research website, and brought together through this Coronavirus (COVID-19) analysis collection page. The Office for National Statistics also publish a Coronavirus (COVID-19) roundup of their data and analysis, with their blog being a further source of useful insight.
Impact on our ongoing work
We have made the decision that the majority of data collections from public bodies will be suspended at this time. For some returns, data will be collected later in the year, or in combination with next year’s data and for others, we will collect annually rather than quarterly. However, there will be some series for which we have to accept that the data are not available through this period, and will therefore never be collected. We have made decisions through considering the appropriateness of asking data suppliers to provide the data, the user need for data to be collected according to usual timetables, and the relevance and importance of data to the COVID-19 situation. I would welcome feedback from users on any issues resulting from these decisions which will inform how we prioritise the collections we bring back on-line.
In accordance with government advice around coronavirus and social distancing all face-to-face interviewing for government social surveys was suspended in March. This has affected the conduct of our own National Survey for Wales, and others carried out by the Office for National Statistics such as the Annual Population Survey – a key labour market statistics data source across the UK. Where possible there have been moves towards telephone-based interviewing, but there will be future implications in terms of timing, availability and/or quality of data which we will keep users informed of.
The telephone replacement for the face-to-face National Survey began on 24 April, and is a 20 minute random sample survey with previous respondents who agreed to be recontacted for further research. The aim is to achieve 1,000 interviews a month. The survey focuses on topics of particular relevance to the current situation, and the intention is to publish results from each month’s fieldwork by the end of the following month, so first results should be available by the end of June.
The Welsh Language Use survey that was originally handed to Welsh speakers identified in the National Survey has therefore been suspended.
As well as affecting what we are able to collect from data providers and respondents, the situation affects our own operations in terms of the priorities for our analytical resource, and therefore impacts what we publish over the coming months. The production of some statistics and planned research will need to be suspended where programmes are cancelled or data collection has been impacted, or the analysis is deemed of lower priority. Other statistics will be impacted in terms of quality, either in terms of accuracy, or through the level of detail available, such as less commentary or fewer breakdowns where we need to reduce our analytical input. Our monthly NHS activity and performance summary for example will remain, but with a reduced and different focus given the current relaxation in terms of monitoring and targets, as well as the cancellation of certain procedures.
Where to find out more
It is important to us that we are open and transparent with users about the decisions made, and our plans for individual data collections. The latest information on our planned outputs or postponements will continue to be available through our upcoming calendar.