Highly Commended for the Award for Statistical Excellence in Trustworthiness, Quality and Value 2021
Lucy Vickers, Deputy Director – Statistics and Data Science and Head of Profession for Statistics
Who are the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC)?
We are a ministerial department working for the UK Government. We support ministers in leading the nation’s health and social care to help people live more independent, healthier lives for longer. DHSC publish weekly statistics on NHS Test and Trace (England) across all four testing pillars. This provides a weekly update on the implementation and performance of the NHS Test and Trace in England. We launched our first publication in June 2020, just two weeks after the Test and Trace programme started. Since February 2021, our team has published additional data alongside the core metrics, focusing on rapid asymptomatic testing in England.
Applying the code
We have been committed to applying the Code of Practice since our first publication on June 11 2020. A statement of compliance with the code of practice was published on June 18 2020, showing that we found complying to the code to be paramount, especially during a time where testing data was heavily criticised.
We have also responded to a rapid review the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) undertook in July 2020 which set out several suggested improvements. Our team released a re-structured version of the publication in August to better meet user needs. Since then, we have continued to improve the publication based on user feedback.
We have applied the Code to many aspects of our work. For example, pilots involving the use of rapid testing started from November 2020 and ramped up from January 2021. In response to this, the increased public interest, and the need for transparency, our team developed a publication roadmap outlining how a new statistical publication could ensure information on the rapid asymptomatic testing programme was published in an orderly fashion. The team worked at pace to set this up and continue to expand it to provide information on the different rapid testing use cases.
Trustworthiness, Quality and Value
Our Test and Trace statistics enhance the public value of statistics. To do so, our statistics are transparent, consistent with other published figures, and timely. We also add new breakdowns to our statistics as they become available, which grants greater insight to users of our statistics.
We make sure any Data Quality issues are made available in the methodology section of our background information including any limitations and reasons for revisions we may have made. The statistics are published weekly regardless of the trend they show to inform public debate, decision making, and raise public trust in the programme. We believe in doing this we increase the transparency of our statistics and allow users to use our data effectively.
This transparent reporting has provided significant value for understanding the Test and Trace operation and to improve it. In November 2020, the operation introduced an improvement whereby a case could inform their household contacts of the need to self-isolate, improving the contact tracing journey for these individuals. This caused the percentage of contacts reached to increase from 60% to 90%. Our team highlighted this operational change clearly in the release and made use of a dashed line in the tables and graphs to show the break in the series.
The DHSC Test and Trace statistics are a single point of contact for information on the Test and Trace programme. For every data source used, our team ensure the figures align with other published figures and outline any differences between published figures for users. This provides a clear evidence base for users and allows them to accurately compare between our statistics and others.
We published our Test and Trace statistics even over the Christmas period, upholding our commitment to publish these statistics in a timely manner for users. We add new data iteratively to provide users with the additional information they require and to reflect the ever-changing operation of Test and Trace.