In our previous blog we suggested that focused analysis is key to maximising the relevance and value of adult social care (ASCS) and carers’ (PSS SACE) survey data for local performance improvements. This is certainly true and, while such analysis may take some effort, the results should surely be enough to convince potential ‘consumers’ of survey data (i.e. local authority (LA) managers and commissioners) to use the findings to inform their decision-making, right?

Not necessarily so.

Our earlier discussions with managers and commissioners found that some were put off by the length and complexity of the ASCS and PSS SACE reports they received[1] or, where they read them, left them unable to see how the findings could be used to inform their decision-making.

We’re sort of stumbling in the dark a bit.  In the first instance it’s flagged up so that we’ve got a problem .. and that’s fantastic ‘cause that tells us something we didn’t know before .. but then it’s, obviously, the next question is, well, how are we going to do something about it? [Manager]

So, what do potential consumers of ASCS or PSS SACE data want to know?

While the information needs of potential consumers will vary both within and between LAs – and are best established through direct discussions (which we appreciate is not always possible at this stage) – most of the managers and commissioners we spoke to expressed a preference for reports that went beyond the ‘descriptives’.

They also described the types of information from the surveys that could be used to guide their decision-making.

And how should these findings be presented?

The managers and commissioners we spoke to were clear about the features of useful ASCS and PSS SACE reports and, unsurprisingly, these are almost identical to the features described in the wider report-writing and data visualisation guidance.

To help analysts to develop ‘helpful’ survey reports and also avoid some of the more common reporting errors, we have amalgamated the relevant strategies into the reporting element of the MAX toolkit.

Even if you are an experienced report-writer, we do really recommend that you take a look at this section as you may learn a thing or two about getting your hard analysis work noticed.

Accessing the MAX toolkit

The MAX toolkit is free to use. Please email the MAX project team to find out more or to register.

Disclaimer: The research on which this blog is based is commissioned and funded by the Policy Research Programme in the Department of Health. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the Department.

[1] Most survey reports submitted to our review focused solely or primarily on describing the entire dataset and were text-heavy and long (sometimes over 70 pages). Only a few included the results of further analysis, contextual information drawn from supplementary sources of data and/or provisional suggestions of what the analysis findings may mean in practice.