NCIS Data Collection

How is NCIS data collected?

The NCIS contains coronial files of all Australian states and territories, except Queensland, dating back to 1st July 2000. Queensland data is contained from 1st January 2001. New Zealand data is available for deaths reported from 1st July 2007.

The data contained in the NCIS is sourced from the coronial brief created as part of the investigation conducted by a Coroner into the death of an individual. This information is coded by court staff and securely transferred to the NCIS. Information contained on the NCIS includes demographic data about the deceased, contextual information about the circumstances, the cause and manner (circumstances) of the death and medico-legal documentation –for example, Coronial finding, autopsy (cause of death) report, police summary of death and toxicology report.

Coding reflects the finding made by a coroner based on the investigation. The determination of the ‘intent’ of a deceased person is subject to the individual determination of the Coroner investigating each fatality. Where a coroner finds the deceased did intend to end their own life, the cases is coded as ‘Intent = Intentional Self-Harm’. Where the mechanism of death and incident causing death are possible suicides but a coroner makes no finding about intent, these cases are coded as ‘Intent = undetermined’.

What happens with the data?

Coronial data collected throughout the coronial investigation is transferred via secure upload processes to the NCIS. The utility of data relies on its consistent and accurate coding. As such, all data in the NCIS is subject to a formal quality assurance process to ensure the coded information is consistent and accurate.

The file created as part of the coronial investigation is generated to support the work of the Coroner. Population of the NCIS is a secondary purpose of the coronial investigation and data collection is the result of operational processes which differ between the nine jurisdictions. Each coronial jurisdiction is governed by a Coronial Act, which are subject to amendments over time. Therefore, there will be differences in the processes, type and comprehensiveness of data collection. While these differences have an impact on the information available on the NCIS, as far as possible, data is coded and presented in a nationally standardised format.

The NCIS utilises the expertise of both the investigating coroner and pathologist. The medical cause of death is determined by the medical specialist (pathologist). The primary and secondary cause of death refer to the contextual or environmental factors which cause or contribute to the death and these are coded on the NCIS as the object and mechanism causing death. To reflect the context, the NCIS accommodates primary and secondary object and mechanism coding.

The NCIS data code set and classifications are based on standardised classification, the International Classification of External Causes of Injury (ICECI), with some modifications to reflect scenarios specific to an Australian and New Zealand context. In addition, coders have the option of utilising free-text fields to accurately record the circumstances of the death, as outlined in the coronial finding and other supporting documents.

Limitations of Data Collection

The NCIS data is coded based on the finding of the investigating Coroner. NCIS may contain basic information regarding newly reported deaths, however most coding and documentation will not be available until the Coroner has completed an investigation and the finding reported to NCIS. Generally, the more recent the time period, the greater the likelihood a significant proportion of Coronial cases will remain open or under investigation with the investigating Coroner.

The data entered into the NCIS is collected from source material such as the police report of death, autopsy reports, toxicology reports and coronial findings. NCIS acknowledges that quality and consistency of these documents may vary between and within each jurisdiction. It is also noted that the primary intention of these documents is for death investigation purposes in order to find the circumstances and cause of death. As a result there may be limitations when these documents are applied for public health use.