Publishing Health Stats Weekly

In my last blog postIMG_20150225_073056451, I shared details of our planned changes to publications practices in the Information Services Division and Health Protection Scotland organising our outputs around a weekly publication cycle from January 2015. We are now eight weeks into the new schedule and I thought it would be a good time to reflect back on a very busy couple of months.

What has been immediately noticeable is the increase in coverage of our publications. By spreading publications out across a whole month as opposed to a single day in that month allows much  more focus on individual reports and we have definitely seen that reflected in our media monitoring. The media can really help in increasing the awareness of health issues with the wider public so this is something we are pleased to see.

Being able to publish weekly also gives us more flexibility than a monthly timetable allows. Where analysis can be completed earlier, publications can be brought forward; but also where we need a bit more time (say another week) to quality assure the data we can adjust the publication date to take account of this, and not have to wait for a whole month for the next opportunity to release data.

There are still days with a high number of publications, for example on 24 February we had 10 publications but 6 of them were on waiting times.  Releasing those together is keeping our commitment to group similar publications. As a result, there will always be some days that are busier than others but we do want to time releases in a way that is useful for customers.

Recently, it was announced that ISD and HPS would be collaborating with the Scottish Government to develop a new website – NHS Performs to make it quick and easy for people to find key NHS statistics. This website will contain data on a number of important indicators – publishing weekly stats where available. It is very early days yet but over the coming months,  we will be working on the new website, involving the public and users in its development. We will share links and updates through this blog.

The publication process touches the whole of our organisation, from those processing the data, running the reports, providing the analysis, producing the report, formatting and publishing the content. We are committed to getting information to our users in the most timely way so that they can put this information to work in their hospitals, NHS Boards, local authorities, helping them to deliver their services.

Nic Rigglesford, Statistics Support Team

Open Data

Data is considered to be ‘open’ if it is freely available for anyone to use, re-use or redistribute it for any purpose without restriction or charge. The UK Government is committed to placing data and information into the public domain to enable citizens to understand the basis for Government decisions, how public sector organisations spend the money allocated to them and ultimately to enable citizens to hold public sector organisations to account for their performance.

The Transforming Information Programme is running pilot projects to explore how data can be released more openly. We know that our customers want to be able to access data which is more timely, which is also in line with the UKSA Code of Practice which requires that data should be released as soon as it is judged ready.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee has suggested that open data can be categorised by using a 5-star schema.  We regularly release data at 1 star, 2 star and 3 star levels but in order to make this officially ‘open data’ we need to release it under an open data licence to govern its use. Without this the data cannot be reused freely. We are exploring how we can open data more widely through a number of pilot projects and those findings along with the recommendations of the Open Data Strategy for Scotland, will inform our plans for 2015.

Margaret MacLeod
Open Data Workstream Lead