Apr 17

Let's bust some myths around our data

Posted: 12 April 2017

Gillian McCormack, Programme Head in the Workforce Intelligence team at Skills for Care talks about why we can be confident in our sector’s main source of data.

I’m a registered social worker and I can tell you that I need to draw on all those skills in my current job which is all about ensuring the active strategic and employer engagement of the sector with the National Minimum Data Set for Social Care (NMDS-SC). This week’s news headlines have shown us why having good evidence is vital in understanding the adult social care sector.

Statistics can be manipulated to say what you want them to say depending on how they’re interpreted. In the case of the adult social care workforce we want the statistics to portray as accurate reflection of the sector as possible. That’s why we are so appreciative of all the care providers who upload their data into NMDS-SC. We have approx. 22,000 establishments and a quarter of a million individual worker records, so a massive thank you to those who take the time to do this.

OK so let’s bust some myths…

The data falls into a black hole and is never used

 Wrong! Our data is used all the time to inform decisions at all levels. Take a quick look through this lot:

  • adult social care apprentices report
  • a series of briefings for employers and commissioners e.g. on staff turnover and pay rates, levels of qualifications, registered nurses, EU workers, social workers etc
  • we provide quarterly reports for the Department of Health on vital workforce data
  • CQC use NMDS-SC data for the annual State of Care in England report
  • our data is used to answer written Parliamentary Questions
  • living wage analysis
  • Migration Advisory Committee (Nurses)
  • Department of Health care markets resilience tool

This list above is just a snap shot of the use of our NMDS-SC based data.

Is data from the NMDS-SC valid and reliable?”

Yes! NMDS-SC holds data on over 22,000 care locations, and over 725,000 worker records. Over 90% of accounts are accessed at least once a year, oh, and we also have 100% of local authority workforce data.

Information in our Workforce Intelligence reports and publications is data from NMDS-SC, plus extra information (this may be Office for National Statistics data). Our analysts then use their expertise to weight that data so that it reflects the whole adult social care sector. At a recent meeting with statisticians at Leeds University, our CQC sample size was described as “wow – that’s huge!”

Weighting data is not about manipulating the figures to suit us, it’s a series of checks and balances that are in place to ensure we only use accurate data. So, when people worry that the data might be skewed, well, it simply isn’t.

An example of this might be spotting that a large provider has made an inputting error and set all 500 workers onto the same rate of pay and a rate that hasn’t increased since 2004. Our analysts will exclude that data from the data set and we’ll contact the provider to alert them to the error.

The weighting model our analysts use has been developed with the London School of Economics. So, we can be very confident indeed that the data is reflective of the sector.

Our message to care providers is good stuff in means good stuff out, not just for you and your care service but to help us build an accurate picture of the sector as a whole.