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HSCIC: Day in the life (part two)


3 November 2014

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Senior reporter Lalah-Simone Springer speaks to the guys in charge of collecting information about obesity, smoking and drug use in your local area 
Just like the Health and Social Care Information Centre's (HSCICs) website, my trip to head office held a lot more information than at first met the eye. In part one I described meeting up with the CCG Outcomes Indicator Set and NHS Outcomes Framework people, and this time I'm talking with Paul Niblett, who heads up the section responsible for statistics on population health. 

Senior reporter Lalah-Simone Springer speaks to the guys in charge of collecting information about obesity, smoking and drug use in your local area 
Just like the Health and Social Care Information Centre's (HSCICs) website, my trip to head office held a lot more information than at first met the eye. In part one I described meeting up with the CCG Outcomes Indicator Set and NHS Outcomes Framework people, and this time I'm talking with Paul Niblett, who heads up the section responsible for statistics on population health. 
I rush up the stairs with my accompanying press officer, Rebecca, to find Paul waiting in a two-table kitchenette with a set of handouts and a full PowerPoint presentation on his laptop. He is a man with no time to lose. 
Nudging round glasses up his nose, he explained that the Lifestyle Statistics team commission surveys, collects data and publishes reports on: 
 – Obesity.
 – Smoking.
 – Drugs.
 – Physical activity.
 – Alcohol.
 – Nutrition.
 – Contraception.
The team is responsible for publishing and quality assuring surveys of the general population – working together with the surveys team who deal with getting it done. Among others, they also carry out one of HSCIC's flagship annual surveys, the Health Survey for England, and an annual survey of smoking, drinking and drug use. 
Schemes such as the National Child Measurement Programme are run and compiled by HSCIC,  as are compendium reports into smoking, alcohol use, drug use and obesity, using data pulled from variety of services like the Office for National Statistics or national crime statistics to give an overview of trends around the subject. 
Down to a local authority level, the HSCIC holds information on how many people have attended hospital where the primary diagnosis is a smoking-related disease. They also have data which shows the number of people using NHS Stop Smoking Services has also tailed off in recent years. 
Paul says: "We don't collect information on why the numbers are decreasing, so far no e-cigarettes have been licensed as medicines, and their contents and quality varies greatly. There is no reason why someone wanting to quit using an e-cigarette shouldn't also speak to a stop smoking service to receive additional support and advice to stand the best chance of quitting for good."
When you consider other datasets showing that the number of people taking up smoking has started to fall, what does it mean that the number of people attending hospital for smoking-related disease is on the up? And if you're trying to develop programmes to help people in your locality cut down on alcohol intake? It may be interesting to look at how much people tend to drink on their heaviest drinking day in your area.  
Paul flips to the next slide, which shows the proportion of men and women who drank more than three times the recommended limit of alcohol (four units for men; three for women) on their heaviest drinking day that week. 
"Out of those who had drunk in the last week, young people (aged 16 to 24) were more likely to have drunk very heavily (more than 12 units for men and 9 units for women)  with 27% doing so.  There were similar proportions for men (26%) and women (28%). By contrast, only 3% of those aged 65 and over who had drunk in the last week were very heavy drinkers.  Men were more likely to have drunk very heavily than women for those aged over 24."
Women aged 16-24 are the only group to drink more than men their age – even if it's only by 2%. This is where it becomes hard that HSCIC doesn't line the data up for you, providing all your local information in a neat little booklet which says: "Hey, you guys have terrible issues with women smoking during pregnancy. Step up." 
Incidentally, that's one of the datasets where direct comparison is possible. 
"The proportion of women that are smoking when they give birth has been coming down fairly consistently over the last seven years," Paul says. "Now, nationally, 12% of mothers are recorded as smokers. There's quite a lot of regional variation, as you might expect. It's only 5% in London, but 21% in Durham and Darlington."
Although the Lifestyle datasets don't show precisely the progress of each clinical commissioning group or health and wellbeing board in improving wellbeing in their local area, the information is detailed enough that it's possible to get an idea of what's happening, or get a jolt when you realise that services commissioned are not doing the job they should. 
As Paul's spritely, data-heavy presentation came to a close – he had to dash off to a meeting after the last slide – press officer Rebecca and I leaned back in our squeaky kitchen chairs to enthuse about the sheer wealth of data, and the multitude of possibilities they contain. 
Did you enjoy Day in the Life? The Commissioning Review is looking for new organisations to unleash Lalah upon. Email tcr@cogora.com with your suggestions. 
 
Pictured: HSCIC head office in Leeds 

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