Season 4 Episode 12:
Health in the UK with Stuart McDonald

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This week we’re talking about one of the key issues of the moment, health in the UK. We’re speaking to well-known actuary and LCP colleague Stuart McDonald MBE, Head of LCP’s longevity and demographic insights team, who specialises in understanding and explaining health and death data.

Stuart gained a high profile during Covid-19 when data interpretation of the government statistics became an essential skill and has continued this work in recent analysis of the impact of NHS waiting times on deaths, and the drivers and implications of the higher-than-usual excess deaths we’ve seen over the last year.

Stuart has been behind front-page headlines in recent times including the 300-500 deaths per week caused by longer waiting times in A&E.

Links mentioned:

We discuss:

  • The background to Stuart’s appearance on Newsnight and meeting with King Charles
  • Stuart’s area of work, what he does, how, and why?
    • How has Covid-19 changed it?
    • Has it previously gone underappreciated, and has Covid-19 brought it out into the limelight slightly more?
  • The Covid-19 Actuaries Response Group, where it came from and what it did
  • What’s the data saying today about health in the UK
    • Not great: mortality is not falling as you would usually expect
    • Surprising things
    • Trends
    • Quality and quantity of data getting better or worse
    • What important data is missing that Stuart would like to see
  • How Stuart is using this data in working with clients, what does it mean for insurers, DB pension schemes

What’s one thing you would like listeners to take away from this?

Actuaries have been able to add value in understanding recent problems, even with a relatively simple part of the skillset. Data analysis and stats have a real opportunity to add value – more numeracy helps understand datasets and draw conclusions.

What is the most underappreciated thing?

Sometimes numbers need a little more coaxing to tell their true story – what you see on the surface can benefit from the insight.

Any recommendations for good books or podcasts:

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