Re: The importance of knowing context of hospital episode statistics when reconfiguring the NHS
I read the letter from Lauren Brennan and colleagues about the importance of accurately coding clinical data with interest; and applaud this initiative to encourage greater understanding of this important subject. Improving data quality is a key focus of the Health and Social Care Information Centre, which manages HES. We liaise closely with organisations to encourage submission of complete data, offer guidance and training on HES data and seek to minimise inaccuracies, but there is still room for improvement; and we are very keen to increase our engagement with clinicians about hospital data.
HES is rich in detail and potentially can be a powerful driver for decision-making, as Dr Brennan rightly points out. Her study demonstrates this in several ways. It is an interesting and correct assertion that thousands of male finished consultant episodes (FCEs) were recorded under the obstetrics, gynaecological and midwifery specialisms. At first glance this would appear out of the ordinary.
Further analysis of the data, by age as well as gender, showed that almost all such male FCEs related to new-born or very young babies. In fact, 96 per cent of these FCEs related to babies less than one week old; with the most likely explanation therefore that all of these episodes were birth-related and therefore treated by associated specialties.
We are very keen to support initiatives such as this and always willing to offer our assistance. For help or further information, or if readers spot any other findings in our data that they think are of interest, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 0845 300 6016.
HES Programme Manager
The Health and Social Care Information Centre
Competing interests: No competing interests