The difference between an estimated value and the true value
As part of the data collection process NHS Digital release a spreadsheet-based validation tool through which local authorities can run their annual data to check the accuracy of individual records. Use of this tool is not mandatory but many local authorities choose to use it to identify errors before making their submissions. There is no limit to the numbers of submissions that local authorities can make.
NHS Digital process all submissions following the mandated submission deadline and produce an automated data quality summary report for each submitting local authority. The data quality summary report examines variance in volume of activity in comparison to previous year volumes and the completeness and validity of the data submitted. It includes a number of data integrity validations, such as dates of sequential processes and identification of missing data. There is also the facility for submitters to record observations and explanations regarding their data. This leads to clarification being sought and double checking carried out by local authority officials, where figures are deemed to be outliers; potential errors and misunderstandings are known to have been eliminated.
Local authorities then have an opportunity to amend and resubmit their data and add any supporting commentary if they wished to before the second and final deadline. Senior sign-off is required before local authorities can make their final submission to indicate the data has been subject to full quality assurance.
NHS Digital works with local authorities in a bespoke way each year to resolve any residual issues, to ensure that the data submitted reflected as accurate a picture of DoLS activity in the year as possible. In some instances, this is not possible before the final data submission deadline; any data issues that were unresolved are noted in the data quality key information. Typical risks to data quality at local level which we would note arise when there is a change in underlying systems or personnel.
The finalised data were subject to the same data quality analysis and the results are shown in data tables of this publication. It is hoped that this analysis will provide users of the report with a clearer sense of the quality controls applied to the underlying data at a national, regional and individual local authority level. NHS Digital also has a suite of ‘behind the scenes’ internal processes built in order to manage risk to data quality for example automated and tested processed to compile the national level data from local data submitted by providers; checking procedures; various levels of approval and sign-off built in to the publication system.
There is a hierarchical governance structure overseeing the data collection: a DoLS Working Group investigates data quality issues and advise on how to manage these. This in turn reports to the Data Delivery Action Group, and then to the Data and Outcomes Board for senior stakeholder approval.