6 great places to find data on health in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

Where do you find data to put your story into context – or give you ideas for stories in the first place? Here are some of the places that come in handy for understanding health in England and the UK as a whole:

1. Indicator Portal (HSCIC)

The Health and Social Care Information Centre‘s (HSCIC) Indicator Portal is a treasure trove providing detail down to GP surgery or hospital level on everything from mortality and disease prevalence to patient experience.

But it also includes socioeconomic data, like the proportion of people in an area who have been out of work for over a year, the number of robberies in an area, and homelessness, plus education and environmental factors.

There’s quite a time-lag on most of the data, sadly – sometimes it’s from 2011 – so it’s best for background rather than new information.

2. Situation reports (SitReps)

If you want really up to date information it doesn’t get much better than the SitReps published by NHS England, which provide information on A&E admissions and waiting times for the last week.

The BBC recently used the data as the basis for a live A&E tracker. As you can see, the key approach is to put the figures into context, both nationally and historically:

NHS winter sitrep tracker

3. Hospital Episode Statistics (HSCIC)

The HES section of the HSCIC site contains all sorts of information about how patients are admitted to hospitals and what happens to them, including maternity services.

The navigation on the site is not particularly easy to follow – for example many of the most useful links are on the right hand side of the page.

Also, a lot of the data is only at aggregate level – try adding the phrase “Provider level analysis” or “by provider” in the search box to get more detail by hospital or trust. It’s not timely but it is more timely than the Indicator Portal – in March 2014 you can get data up to December 2013.

Helpfully, the site does provide a publications calendar, so you can plan ahead for future releases.

4. Gov.uk and Data.gov.uk publications

Not all data about health is published by NHS England or the HSCIC. The central Gov.uk website’s Publications section allows you to subscribe to email updates or RSS alerts when new information is published that covers the topic ‘National Health Service’, or comes from the Department of Health – or you can simply choose those containing a keyword such as ‘health’.

You can also choose to get updates on all publications, including research and consultations, or just statistics.

gov uk publications

A similar central repository is the Data.gov.uk website, which allows you to search by keywordselect the ‘Health’ theme, or browse by publisher (department or body). There’s a lot of overlap here, but you may find data on one which isn’t on the other.

health publishers

5. TheyWorkForYou and WhatDoTheyKnow

There’s plenty of data released in responses to FOI requests. Getting hold of those isn’t easy, however, as there are hundreds of bodies which potentially could publish responses.

Some are published on the Gov.uk publications site listed above, but it’s also worth subscribing to an email or RSS alert from the FOI request site WhatDoTheyKnow. You might try a broad search like ‘health’, or a type of organisation, like ‘CCG’.

Another useful source is Parliamentary written answers: these are responses to questions from MPs and Peers and often include tables of data. You can use the sister site TheyWorkForYou to search written answers specifically (use the drop-down menu for Section) and/or specify that you’re only interested in answers from the Department of Health. Here’s an example search for ‘health’.

6. Regulators and auditors

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspects a range of health services, from hospitals and GP surgeries to dentists and care homes.

It publishes some (not very useful) data that basically lists details on the “places that provide care”, including the date last inspected. But its most useful data – results from almost 100,000 inspections, comes from browsing its directory and clicking on individual links.

Also worth looking at is the National Audit Office, which has a section of reports on health and social care.

Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales

Many of the links above relate to data for England, but the same data is normally available at similar sites in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – these include:

 

Serious Untoward Incidents and FOI

Every time something goes wrong in the NHS it creates a paper trail… And that means that investigators can use the Freedom of Information Act to find out exactly what has happened.

THE SYSTEM

If something happens on a ward – from patients abusing staff all the way to clinical errors – it needs to be recorded. These events are known in the NHS as “Serious Untoward Incidents” (SUIs).

Every time one of these incidents occurs it is reported through the NHS – from the ward up to managers to the regional body that is responsible for the clinic. Continue reading

Health regulator Monitor – get the data: organogram and staff pay

Orgnogram for health regulator Monitor

The health regulator Monitor has published data on its structure, including posts, pay scales, and an organogram (PDF) (shown above). The data is particularly useful if you are trying to trace responsibility within the organisation.

If you find the data useful, or need any further help, let us know!

Get the data: Freedom of Information contact details for every clinical commissioning group

Help Me Investigate has compiled a list of Freedom of Information emails for the new bodies overseeing local health spending in England.

The list was compiled for Health Service Journal by Tom Warren and Matt Burgess, and is reproduced here with permission.

A table showing the emails is embedded below. Some CCGs are sharing an FOI address where they may be using the same support team to process them. Others have retained the old FOI email from the primary care trust (the organisations which oversaw spending before clinical commissioning was introduced). Continue reading

Video: the roles at one CCG explained

Staff at Stockport CCG have published a series of brief videos explaining their roles, which provide a useful introduction to the new system of paying for health services.

The videos include the Chief Finance Officer Dan Jones (below), the Chief Clinical Officer Dr Ranjit Gill, Clinical Directors Jaweeda Idoo and Dr Cath Briggs. We’ve embedded most videos from the point where roles are explained.

Dr Ash Patel is Clinical Director of Quality and Performance at Stockport CCG: Continue reading

The new NHS: what it means for journalists

There was laughter in the room when John Lister ironically described the new NHS structure as “streamlined” and shared a Guardian graphic of the new bureaucracy. It set the tone for the NUJ’s Reporting on our health services masterclass, aimed at helping health reporters get to grips with confusing changes.

Lister, senior lecturer in health journalism at Coventry University, identified some of the main issues for journalists:

  • access to information
  • getting that information in a timely manner
  • getting a range of information – not just press releases, but also Board papers, statistics, other info that isn’t specifically targeted at the press
  • transparency
  • access to expert analysis. (You have the info, but can you make sense of it? Is there a specialist who can put it in context or add insight?)

He spoke about the slippery nature of transparency. For example, NHS England (the new name for the NHS Commissioning Board) is relatively open to reporting, but the real nitty-gritty decisions are made by Local Area Teams (LATs). Continue reading

Transcripts: NUJ event – Reporting on our health services

The European Health Journalism website has published transcripts of the NUJ masterclass this month where I spoke about investigating health. Direct links are copied below:

You can also find audio of the three speakers other from me in a previous post on HMI Health.

AUDIO: Health journalists speak at NUJ Reporting Health event

Last night Help Me Investigate attended the NUJ’s event on reporting the new health system. Panelists John Lister (Coventry University), Shaun Lintern (Health Service Journal) and Branwen Jeffreys (BBC) spoke in turn about how the new health system is structured (as best can be told); how to report on the new system; and the possible problems and opportunities within that.

Audio clips of those introductory talks can be found below, with a brief description. All three can also be found on Audioboo under the event tag, #NUJhealth. Continue reading

Tracking accountability and money in the new health system – diagram

CCG_accountability

The King’s Fund published the above diagram as part of a report on Good Governance for Clinical Commissioning Groups (PDF) in the new health system. It’s one of the best diagrams we’ve seen so far explaining where accountability lies within the system, and funding. Click to see a full size version.

The whole report is worth reading for an insight into what the new groups are supposed to do, and how they are supposed to operate.

The King’s Fund also has a section on its website about the NHS reforms covering autonomy, accountability and democratic legitimacy, which provides some useful historical and other context.