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Editor's blog Satuday 26 March 2011: EXCLUSIVE - DH cuts funding for health and NHS questions in Britsh Social Attitudes survey

Click here for details of 'Andrew Lansley's Millwall Tendency', via subscription-based Health Policy Intelligence.

With thanks to one of the Health Policy Insight readers inside the Department of Health for the information, we can exclusively reveal that the DH has terminated its funding of the health and NHS satisfaction questions in the British Social Attitudes survey, run every year since 1983 by the National Centre for Social and Economic Research.

We're really through the looking glass now, people. Not only has Elvis left the building, he's pouring in petrol and reaching for the matches.

You know why this matters.

Without reliably comparable, year-on-year data of the kind that the BSA survey uniquely provides, we cannot know whether things are in stasis, changing for the better, or changing for the worse.

False economy
This is a flagrantly false economy from a government that trumpets its commitment to transparency and openness when it suits them, or until forced into a U-turn.

Nor is there a reasonable argument that this is something some organisation other than government should reasonably fund. This kind of research is unquestionably in the public interest. There is no more logical funder.

The Government has made much of its desire to see information more widely used and freely available, to change the way government and public services function. These ideas are laudable, but neither can happen if the information is not collected.

The loss of the resource of annual data tracking public attitudes which will shortly enter its third decade is straight vandalism. The motives underlying this decision are suspect in the extreme.

UPDATE: NatCen response on BSA survey cut
We did get a response from the National Centre for Social Research on the funding cut, which is as follows: "We can confirm that DH has cut funding for BSA this year but no decision has been made about whether or not they might fund questions on future years of the survey.

"We are very grateful to DH for the support they have given to BSA over the years. It is widely recognised that the survey has provided an important means of tracking public attitudes to health provision for nearly 30 years, and we were clearly disappointed when DH decided not to continue its funding in 2011. So we are delighted that the Kings Fund has decided to fund questions about the NHS this year, although this will still mean some valuable questions won't be able to be included.

"NatCen recognises that DH, like all spending departments, has some very difficult decisions to make about funding for social research given cuts to public expenditure. However, as the leading independent provider of social research in the UK, we're concerned that individual departmental decisions protect the evidence base as far as possible. A co-ordinated response across departments is critical.".

So that leaves our chums the Kings Fund looking very good ... and the dear old DH looking like an organisation that knows the price of research, but not its value, Which might explain the DH's extraordinary behaviour and process around the set-up of the CHSEO under their ex-chief economist Professor Barry McCormick.