Department of Health backed in purdah row

UK Statistics Authority says NHS Improvement does not have to publish quarterly performance figures before general election


By Jim Dunton

25 May 2017

An NHS lanyard  Credit: PA

Watchdog the UK Statistics Authority has said an NHS organisation that helps hospitals and other service providers meet financial and operational challenges is within its rights to delay the publication of key performance data until after the general election.

Earlier this month it emerged that NHS Improvement was planning to delay the publication of quarterly financial data on health trusts in England that would otherwise have been expected to be made public before the end of May.

In a formal response to the concerns, UKSA chair Sir David Norgrove has said the figures were not classified as official statistics, and that their publication was therefore not covered by the principles set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.


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“NHS Improvement is not required to comply with the practices and principles set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics, including requirements that publication dates be pre-announced, and that data be made equally available to all,” he said.

“The UK Statistics Authority and NHS Improvement have recently discussed the benefit that would come from NHS Improvement choosing voluntarily to comply with the code of practice in relation to these data and, in the longer term, to consider publishing them as official statistics so that in future publication dates would indeed be pre-announced, and that complete data would be made equally available to all.”

As a stop-gap measure, NHS Providers – which is a trade association representing a selection of trusts – released its own estimate for the year-end deficit faced by NHS trusts in lieu of the official figures.

It said the year-end figure for 2016/17 would be between -£700m and -£750m, and a “substantial improvement” on a February projection of -£886m for the year.

The member organisation its year-end projection was a 70% reduction on the previous year’s figure of -£2.45bn.

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