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Routinely collected English birth data sets: comparisons and recommendations for reproductive epidemiology.

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journal contribution
posted on 2019-05-15, 08:31 authored by RE Ghosh, DC Ashworth, AL Hansell, K Garwood, P Elliott, MB Toledano
BACKGROUND: In England there are four national routinely collected data sets on births: Office for National Statistics (ONS) births based on birth registrations; Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) deliveries (mothers' information); HES births (babies' information); and NHS Numbers for Babies (NN4B) based on ONS births plus gestational age and ethnicity information. This study describes and compares these data, with the aim of recommending the most appropriate data set(s) for use in epidemiological research and surveillance. METHODS: We assessed the completeness and quality of the data sets in relation to use in epidemiological research and surveillance and produced detailed descriptive statistics on common reproductive outcomes for each data set including temporal and spatial trends. RESULTS: ONS births is a high quality complete data set but lacks interpretive and clinical information. HES deliveries showed good agreement with ONS births but HES births showed larger amounts of missing or unavailable data. Both HES data sets had improved quality from 2003 onwards, but showed some local spatial variability. NN4B showed excellent agreement with ONS and HES deliveries for the years available (2006-2010). Annual number of births increased by 17.6% comparing 2002 with 2010 (ONS births). Approximately 6% of births were of low birth weight (2.6% term low birth weight) and 0.5% were stillbirths. CONCLUSIONS: Routinely collected data on births provide a valuable resource for researchers. ONS and NN4B offer the most complete and accurate record of births. Where more detailed clinical information is required, HES deliveries offers a high quality data set that captures the majority of English births.


The work of the UK Small Area Health Statistics Unit is funded by Public Health England as part of the MRC-PHE Centre for Environment and Health, funded also by the UK Medical Research Council. Grant number: MR/L01341X/1 Dr. Elliott is an NIHR Senior Investigator and is supported by the MRC-PHE Centre for Environment and Health, the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, the NIHR Imperial College Biomedical Research Centre, and the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit on Health Impact of Environmental Hazards.



Archives of Disease in Childhood - Fetal and Neonatal Edition 2016;101:F451-F457.

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/Organisation/COLLEGE OF LIFE SCIENCES/School of Medicine/Department of Health Sciences


  • AM (Accepted Manuscript)

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Archives of Disease in Childhood - Fetal and Neonatal Edition 2016;101:F451-F457.


BMJ Publishing Group for Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, European Academy of Paediatrics



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Hospital Episode Statistics data 2014 are reused with the permission of the Health and Social Care Information Centre. The ONS births data used were supplied by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), derived from the national birth registrations.



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