Te Whatu Ora yet to republish pulled health reporting data weeks on from publishing error

Giles Dexter for RNZ

Key health reporting data is still yet to be re-published by Te Whatu Ora, nearly three weeks since it was pulled for accuracy and quality assurance checks.

Earlier this month, flawed hospital statistics were published on the health agency's website.

The data incorrectly showed monthly wait times at Emergency Departments in a number of regions were at near-perfect levels. The mistake was blamed on a publishing error.

At the time, Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall said the data held by officials was correct, and no decisions had been made as a result of incorrect ED data.

Nevertheless, Te Whatu Ora pulled the data - along with every other National Performance Reporting Metric.

These included child immunisation rates, how many young people were able to access specialist mental health services within three weeks of referral, and how many people had been on a planned care waitlist for more than a year.

The Minister said the reason for pulling all the data was so Te Whatu Ora could take a look at their data assurance processes, and admitted after the merging of 20 District Health Boards there were multiple issues about data in the system that needed to be worked through systematically.

The corrected ED wait times were eventually re-published on 10 March, and showed no improvement. But the rest of the data is still not available.

RNZ asked the Health Minister where the updated National Performance Reporting Metrics were.

"They need to keep working on them until they're right and then they'll be published," Verrall said. She had been assured no other incorrect data was discovered in the rest of the metrics.

"Not in addition to what's already known," she said.

National's health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti said if that was the case, then the data should be released.

"Put it up. It it's the same as it was on that Thursday, put it up then."

Reti wanted reassurances no decisions were made on any incorrect data, and that the mistake never happened again.

"What is the process going forward, so analysts and ourselves won't have to confront grossly incorrect data, that they really should have seen before they put it up?" he said.

Other data Reti expected to be held by Te Whatu Ora, was proving hard to access.

Last month, he asked the Minister for quarterly staff ED numbers and vacancies at each of New Zealand's district hospitals.

Verrall responded with a table showing the staff numbers - but replied "I am advised that vacancy data by individual departments is not held centrally by Te Whatu Ora."

However, in October 2022, Reti asked the previous health minister Andrew Little, how many ED vacancies there were - and was given a table with a detailed breakdown of vacancies.

Reti said if the data still sat with the District Health Boards, then it defeated the point of centralising the health system.

"This was almost the key point of Health New Zealand and the health reforms, that everything would be centralised. They'd be able to make central decisions and central analysis, all the data would come into one place."

He was also told Te Whatu Ora did not have centralised data on district-level communications contractors or consultants, school-based immunisation programmes, and how many nursing staff were redeployed to EDs during flu season.

"My expectation on day one was that data would be there, because on day minus-one, the data was there. So why on day plus-one, is it not? It must be available."

In a statement, Verrall told RNZ there was a lot of work in contacting the various hospitals around the country, collating the data, and making sure it was quality assured.

"We are nine months into a multi-year project to centralise the health system. There are some subjects and data sets that are in place and accessible, and some that are still being analysed and processed within the new Te Whatu Ora systems. I expect the data to be in one place, and hope it will be in one place in the near future," she said.

RNZ has contacted Te Whatu Ora for comment.