Data gaps in healthcare statistics

Think tank: Centre for Public Data

Author(s): Amber Dellar; Anna Powell-Smith

March 14, 2024

This report from UK think tank the Centre for Public Data looks at the questions asked by healthcare stakeholders that cannot be answered by official statistics.

There are basic things we do not know about our healthcare system, and these gaps are ultimately harming patients. This report maps the questions that are repeatedly asked by key healthcare stakeholders but cannot be answered by official statistics.

With the NHS in crisis, it is more important than ever that the Government knows the answer to a question as simple as: how many people in the UK were diagnosed with endometriosis last year? Surprisingly they do not, and similarly basic gaps exist across the healthcare system.

CFPD spoke to ten healthcare charities and analysed 200 major independent reports and 3,000 Parliamentary Questions to identify the most harmful gaps in healthcare statistics. 

The report finds that data on the NHS workforce, diagnoses and waiting times are consistently missing. These gaps are not abstract problems. They often mean charities must pay for basic data, which leaves them less money to help people. And they stop the Government from investing in the areas of health that need it most, which negatively affects the nation’s wellbeing.

The Health and Social Care Statistics Leadership Forum recently opened a consultation into health and social care statistical outputs. The report recommends that DHSC prioritise filling these gaps as part of this review, so that charities, regulators, and the NHS have the data they need to care for the UK effectively.