Plans by the NHS Information Centre to save £300,000 a year by withdrawing its contribution to the cost of the General Lifestyle Survey could see the end of a 40-year time series on drinking and smoking.So who, exactly, are the users in question here? Well, the ongoing consultation points to a few interested parties.
Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, has been told by the UK Statistics Authority that the decision, apparently taken without user consultation, is in breach of the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.
The Office for National Statistics has just completed its business plan for statistics after the cuts, so has no money available to make up the shortfall, Sir Michael Scholar, chair of UKSA, says in a letter to Mr Lansley. So that means, he says, that the decision by by Information Centre will lead to the immediate discontinuation of long-established national statistics on smoking, drinking, health conditions and use of health services.
• HMRC uses the GLF smoking data for its estimates of the illicit tobacco market, for which it has an associated PSA targetThat's quite a lot of use for a piffling £300k, especially since the information is also used by other bodies funded by the government. What the hell is Lansley playing at?
• The NHS Information Centre uses the GLF smoking data in order to carry out its own analysis at an England level for inclusion in its suite of annual statistical reports. The IC also use GLF data to answer parliamentary questions
• The Department of Health (DH) make wide use of the GLF smoking and drinking data, specifically to measure the effectiveness of various Government policies aimed at reducing smoking and drinking
• Scottish Government use GLF data to compare Smoking and Drinking estimates across the countries
Hold on. Oh yeah! The info is also used by other bodies funded by government.
We have a vast network of pressure groups, fake charities, medical mafia and glorified quangoes - all sucking at the tax teat - who will squeal at the loss of this ONS data. But then, if it's so important, perhaps they could dip into some of the copious cash they are already shovelled**, in order to persuade the ONS to continue providing the ammunition for them to manipulate before shooting the government on policy.
Isn't such a purpose, after all, why some of these tedious nag tanks were set up in the first place? The state paying for the stats is just a duplication of expense.
It's doubtless an accident, but perhaps Lansley has done something right for a change.
** Holyrood can bloody well throw some cash in the pot too, by crikey.