In January 2017, NRS adopted new software for recording mortality statistics. This software – IRIS – will help us to improve data relating to deaths from certain diseases and disorders.  It will also help to create statistics that allow for more accurate comparison with other countries, particularly with England and Wales.

When a death is registered, it’s common for a number of diseases or conditions to be recorded on the death certificate. The IRIS software translates causes of death into a code that is recognised under the World Health Organisation’s International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, Tenth Revision (ICD-10).

IRIS also helps to identify which of several causes written on a death certificate should be classified as the underlying cause of death.  The underlying cause of death is the basis for most of our published statistics, and is defined by the WHO as “the disease or injury which initiated the train of morbid events leading directly to death”, or as “the circumstances of the accident or violence which produced the fatal injury”.

The new software will lead to some changes in the way the underlying cause of death is determined. On the whole, the changes aren’t large but statistics on deaths from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and diseases of the respiratory system are likely to be affected most.  Study of these conditions is expected to become increasingly important in future as life expectancy rises, so it is vital that experts have access to the most accurate data available.

Statistics published today on births, deaths and other vital events for the first quarter of 2017 are the first to be affected by the change of software.

You can find out more about the impact of the new IRIS software here.

Julie Ramsay, Statistician, National Records of Scotland

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