NEWS29 March 2011

Stats Authority warns Health Department over Lifestyle Survey funds

Government UK

UK— The head of the Statistics Authority has written to Health Secretary Andrew Lansley in protest at a lack of consultation over a decision to withdraw funding from the General Lifestyle Survey.

Sir Michael Scholar says the decision by the NHS Information Centre to pull its £300,000 annual contribution to the survey without inviting comments from users of the survey data is a breach of the Code of Practice for Official Statistics and the statutory requirement on all government departments to comply with the code.

But a Department of Health spokesman said no decisions have yet been taken. “Discussions are still ongoing with the Information Centre,” the spokesman said.

The General Lifestyle Survey is conducted by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on behalf of several government departments. Scholar warned in this letter that the withdrawal of funding at this late stage, after the ONS has completed its post-budget cuts business plan, means no other funds would be available to cover the shortfall.

Scholar said: “The decision by the NHS Information Centre will, therefore, result in the immediate discontinuation of long-established national statistics on smoking, drinking, health conditions and use of health services.”

He expressed concern on behalf of the authority that the “abrupt discontinuation” of certain aspects of the General Lifestyle Survey would “seriously undermine the UK’s ability to monitor key trends affecting public health”.