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A Statement from NHS Digital on the misrepresentation of our vacancy statistics in some media reports

A number of media reports on our vacancy statistics data published on 23 January have unintentionally misrepresented our data. It is not possible to use our data to draw any conclusions on the number of appointments as a proportion of advertisements raised. This is because our information is based on the secondary use of administrative data related to job advertisements within NHS Jobs. The appointments data is often not completed, as individual organisations will have alternative means of managing appointments information locally.

The report makes it clear that not all trusts will use NHS Jobs in the same way, or even at all in some cases. If they use it to publish a vacancy then the data will show that and the system will record the number of web hits on the advert and the applications submitted, although organisations may choose to close an advert early if the number of applications is particularly high. If they do not use NHS Jobs to shortlist applicants then we will not have the full statistics on numbers shortlisted, and if they do not update the site with the details of applicants appointed then we will only have partial data on that as well. In general, the completion of data gets less further along the recruitment process and this is visible in Tables 3-6.

The tables on web hits, applicants and number short listed (tables 3-5) include a rate against advertised vacancy full-time equivalent. NHS Digital do not calculate a rate for the appointment information (table 6) because it is such a large undercount due to appointment data not being fully completed within NHS jobs.

The publication is clear that the statistics are experimental and provisional. They are provided as an indication of the data available and as a guide to the number of published vacancies advertised and other related information. However they should be treated with caution, particularly with respect to what they actually refer to and their interpretation.

NHS Digital produces the NHS Vacancy Statistics publication in response to user need for healthcare recruitment related information and to fulfil the vacancy elements of the workforce Minimum Data Set. As part of its commitment to transparency, NHS Digital publishes as much of the data that it collects as is possible. In the case of the appointment information, it is published primarily to highlight the potential of the data source and to encourage greater completion of the data at source, which would increase the utility of the data for all users in future. NHS Digital is engaged in development work with a range of stakeholders to consider a range of additional data sources related to healthcare recruitment to further enhance the information available.

Experimental statistics are official statistics which are published in order to involve users and stakeholders in their development and as a means to build in quality at an early stage. It is important that users understand that limitations may apply to the interpretation of this data. More details are given in the report and the data quality statement.