Headlines: November 5th, 2009

The Audit Commission is unveiling plans to improve the reliability of facts and figures used by public bodies when they make decisions. It says councils, health trusts, emergency services, and the bodies that regulate their work depend on accurate and accessible information.

Launching a new discussion paper, ‘Nothing but the truth’, the Commission says that social workers, child safety professionals, doctors and police are working in the dark unless they have good information. Services, it adds, cannot be joined up in cases where one organisation distrusts another’s data.

The paper puts forward three possible ways to assess the quality of data, including spot checks on indicators that are used to track service performance. It also suggests that inspectors should give independent assurance on the credibility of information alongside auditing of accounts.

The Commission’s Chief Executive Steve Bundred said the issue of the quality of data bedevilled public service. He added: “Many recent failures to protect the vulnerable – Victoria Climbie and Baby Peter in Haringey, the high death rate in Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust – have raised questions about the quality of information used by professionals, and how well they share it.”

The Commission argues that determined attempts to improve the quality of locally-produced information can get results and says that nine out of ten police authorities had good or excellent data quality in 2007, compared with only three out of ten in 2004.

Mr. Bundred said the idea of the document was to begin a conversation about what needed to be done to improve data quality in local public services and he was looking forward to hearing what people had to say on the issue.