Office for National Statistics has recommended a major redesign of
the GHS and its relaunch as a more efficient survey, better focused
on meeting users' needs.
covering demographic, social and health topics, from both government
departments for policy purposes and from the wider community
including for academic research. The proposals will mean a continuous
GHS for at least five years from April 2000.
The main proposal is for the GHS to consist of two parts: a
continuous element, which would remain essentially unchanged for five
years, and a number of additional sections, varying from year to
year, that would be separately sponsored. This will ensure that
traditional subject areas remain unchanged and that the continuity of
statistical series is maintained.
Other key features of the proposals for the new GHS are:
a review of the survey sample;
an investigation into the possibility of alternative fieldwork
arrangements, including using an element of telephone interviewing;
simplified processing leading to data delivery timetables being
speeded up by some 3-4 months;
a more accessible and easier to use database;
work on the potential for weighting or grossing the survey data;
potential for access to data for various reference time periods
including financial years, calendar years, quarterly data and
possibly rolling years.
This redesign of the GHS will substantially reduce costs whilst
improving quality, timeliness and ease of access for customers.
It will be paid for by forming a partnership involving several
government departments, although the ONS will still pay for the bulk
of the survey. A proposed five year agreement between ONS and
departments on how much money is needed will help to guarantee
stability for the future, but this will depend on the outcome
of the current comprehensive spending review.
The new style GHS will begin in April 2000 with preparations and
testing taking place in the financial year 1999/2000. There will be
no survey during that development year.
ONS is grateful for the range of views and comments made throughout
the period of review. The next step is to detail proposals for the
redesigned survey and to discuss these with GHS users inside and
outside Government. ONS will continue to consult users throughout
the process either directly or through avenues such as the GHS
User Group of the Data Archive.
For further details please contact Elaine Chamberlain, B2/06, Office
for National Statistics, 1 Drummond Gate, London SWlV 2QQ/ telephone
number 01353-777807. EMAIL: elaine.chamberlain @ ons.gov.uk.
Background to the review
1. Due to public expenditure constraints the GHS was suspended for a
year from April 1997 and a public consultation exercise was conducted
by ONS to seek views on priorities for future continuous social
2. In response to the needs expressed in this exercise for GHS data,
the survey was reinstated for 1998/99 while a 'five yearly' review
was initiated to consider its medium term future. ONS is committed to
carrying out reviews of its major social surveys every five years and
making the results publicly available in line with the GSS guidelines
for commissioning social surveys.
3. The technical proposals from the review aim to simplify the survey
while retaining its key elements. Maintaining the continuous element
of the GHS largely unchanged for five years will avoid the need for
any significant annual redesign of the survey and this will
significantly reduce costs.
4. The development of these technical proposals and their evaluation
will be taken forward in consultation with GHS users. A meeting of
the GHS User Group of the Data Archive has been arranged for October
1998 and a further discussion at a meeting of the RSS Official
Statistics Section is being planned.
Commissioning the new GHS
5. ONS considered the commissioning strategy for the GHS for the five
yearly period. In doing so, it considered the requirement for the
GHS, the potential for introducing further sponsorship or
partnerships and the advantages and disadvantages of market testing
the survey. In doing the latter, it consulted the Social Survey
Division of the ONS and potential alternative survey suppliers.
6. In weighing up the advantages and disadvantages of market testing,
a major influence was the substantial cost savings and improvements
identified by the Social Survey Division of the ONS, weighed against
the costs of market testing to ONS and outside organisations. ONS
concluded that the GHS should not be market tested for the
forthcoming five year period.
7. The Office for National Statistics works in partnership with
others in the Government Statistical Service to provide Parliament,
government and the wider community with the statistical information,
analysis and advice needed to improve decision-making, stimulate
research and inform debate. It also registers key life events. It
aims to provide an authoritative and impartial picture of society and
a window on the work and performance of government, allowing the
impact of government policies and actions to be assessed.