Data Limitations

The National Coronial Information System (NCIS) is an administrative data set (a collection of data that is the result of an operational process).

As such there are certain limitations in relation to the NCIS data set which users should be aware of. These include:

  • Case completion – Before selecting a reporting period, users should be aware that a proportion of cases within any given period  may still be open on the NCIS.

The NCIS is a regularly updated data collection, and as such some basic information regarding newly reported deaths may be contained  on the system. However, most coding and documentation will not be available until an investigation is completed with the coroner and the record is closed on the NCIS.  Users should therefore consider what proportion of cases may still be open on the NCIS when selecting a reference period to examine.  The more recent the time period, the greater the likelihood a significant proportion of cases will be open on the NCIS. Regular statistics about the proportion of open cases on the NCIS for a reporting period are published on the NCIS website (NCIS Operational Statistics).

  • Availability of attached reports – Before designing a study based on obtaining information from certain attached reports on the NCIS, users should check the proportion of these reports that are available on the NCIS.

While best efforts are made to obtain reports for all cases on the NCIS (where relevant investigations were conducted), the proportion of report attachment varies across  jurisdictions. This may be due to technical issues surrounding the provision of reports to the NCIS, or  the unavailability of the reports in the appropriate electronic format. Regular statistics as to the number of available documents for cases on the NCIS are published on the NCIS website (NCIS Operational Statistics).

  • Degree of content in attached reports – The amount and format of information available in reports attached to the NCIS will vary based on the individual practitioners preparing the reports and the templates used in the different jurisdictions.


  •  Quality Assessment of closed cases –  The NCIS Unit conducts a quality review of the coding associated with cases that have been closed on the NCIS. An indication as to whether an individual case has been quality assured is provided on the case detail screen next to the Case Status field. Cases which are still open are not quality assured as the information in the record is subject to change.

Over the years, the review process has developed and become more stringent. When the review process is improved, closed cases are not retrospectively reviewed. Therefore early cases will not have been subject to the current quality review process.

While every effort is made to quality review closed cases in a timely manner, there may be a delay between the case being closed and the completion of the quality review. Users can report suspected coding issues for closed cases by selecting the hyperlink  “Submit Data Issue” in the top right hand side of each case screen.

See more information about the NCIS Quality Review process.

  • Geocoding location data – Geocodes are only applied  to external cause deaths which  are a) closed; and b) reported since 1 January 2006. In addition, only the residential address and incident location address are geocoded.

Boundary tags are added to the NCIS record to represent the geographic location of the deceased’s residence and the location of the fatal incident. This is based on the closest identified data point as determined by geocoding software utilised by the NCIS (QuickLocate, Map Data Services). Geocodes are not applied to the death, last seen alive or body found addresses.

At present, geocoded data is processed in an annual batch file, approximately 2-3 years after the reference period. I.e. 2009 geocodes are assigned in 2012. More timely processing may be considered in the future.

  • ICD-10 codes – If using ICD-10 codes on the NCIS, users should be aware of potential data gaps, the data availability timetable , and the status of the ICD-10 code within the NCIS.

Statistics about the proportion of ICD-10 codes available for each year of data on the NCIS are available on the NCIS website (NCIS Operational Statistics).

ICD-10 codes are provided for upload to the NCIS by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) approximately 18 months  after the reference period, upon release of the ABS Cause of Death Report I.e. 2010 ICD-10 codes available in mid-2012. The availability of the ICD-10 codes within the NCIS is contingent on several factors which include the completeness of registration data available to the ABS, and the ability to match the cases between the two data systems.

The matching of appropriate registered deaths to cases on the NCIS is conducted by ABS using probabilistic matching. As such, there may be some cases on the NCIS which do not have an ICD-10 code due to an appropriate match not able to be found to the registered deaths file.

As the ABS has a review process for the assignment of ICD-10 codes, each of the ICD-10 codes on the NCIS has an indication as to whether it is the final ICD-10 code (which will not change), or whether it is a preliminary or revised code which may be subject to further change.

  • Work Related codes – If using Safe Work Australia codes on the NCIS, users should be aware of the definitional issues applied and the data availability timetable.

 Additional coding which relates to work related deaths are provided for upload to the NCIS by Safe Work Australia. These codes are only provided for cases which Safe Work Australia has determined to be work-related, and accordingly may not be available for all cases that are identified on the NCIS as work-related.