Joseph Lu says public data provision will help actuaries to provide better solutions
The Longevity Science Panel's latest report calls for improvement in the provision of publicly-held data to enable both the public and private sectors to meet the growing needs of an ageing UK population. This is important in the areas of pensions, release of housing equity, housing and social care. The report summarises the complex legislation surrounding data access, discusses potential benefits from improved access to government databases and makes a series of recommendations.
The pensions industry has been helping pension funds and individuals manage longevity risk. With a greater use of medical underwriting in the bulk and individual annuities markets, there is an increasing need to determine how longevity is associated with health-related factors including age, risk factors and diseases. Health data of anonymised individuals will be an important contribution. An example would be health data in the government's Clinical Practice Research Database. However, the current, narrow interpretation of the 'public good' appears to prohibit access.
The housing market is delivering much fewer specialist homes for older people than are needed. The provision of specialist housing needs data on disability progression of sub-populations. It is also important to have data to establish the contribution of specialist housing for the elderly on the surrounding economy and healthcare provision.
The financial services industry has been urged to provide solutions to help older home owners access the money locked up in their properties. However, there is a lack of publicly collected data to support crucial assumptions such as the survival rates and incidence of care home entry of home owners of sub-populations.
The UK's rapidly ageing population can expect to see a growing need for elderly residential and long-term care. Any solutions for social care would need to be informed by data on morbidity, disability and care needs, particularly at the point of needing care. Data here is not readily available or collected.
Problems and recommendations
The Panel opines that information collected in the course of its use of public sector services must be available, with the right safeguards, to all who need to plan and provide services to develop our society and economy. However, some issues must be rectified:
- Pieces of legislation on information provision have emerged separately, with the unintended consequences of adding complexity.
- The private sector should seek to increase confidence and gain trust with the public regarding the use of data.
- New data is required to meet emerging challenges in society.
To improve the provision of publicly-held information for decision making by both the public and private sectors, the panel puts forward four recommendations:1. The formation of a coherent and publicly acceptable legal structure and entity to govern the collection, management and dissemination of public statistics, data and information to support the public good.
2. The 'public good' should be defined in a way that includes any activity that benefits society or the economy, particularly where that activity is aligned with public policy.
3. Strategies are employed to improve the appropriate access of both the public and private sectors to all publicly-funded data, information and the public interest.
These might include:
- Principle-based definitions of the levels of granularity of anonymous data that do not require any restriction on access.
- Licensed third-party data warehouses that can analyse sensitive data for other organisations.
- Software that enables aggregate analysis of sensitive data without allowing access at the individual level.
- The UK Statistics Authority extending the remit of its Administrative Data Research Network to the private sector.
4. Private sector and public bodies are included in discussions to specify what public data and information are needed for the benefit of society and the economy.
- The private sector should be actively encouraged to join Statistics User Forums that are organised by the Royal Statistical Society.
- It should also be encouraged to participate in consultations and reviews about the collection and use of statistical databases.
The Longevity Science Panel was set up by Legal & General to explore future life expectancy in the UK. It consists of chair Dame Karen Dunnell, Sir John Pattison, Sir Colin Blakemore, professor Klim McPherson and profeJossor Steve Haberman. Public Data for the Private Sector: Better solutions for an ageing population' can be available here: http://www.longevitypanel.co.uk/
Joseph Lu is secretariat of the Longevity Science Panel