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Reshaping health and social care with data

Health bosses say patients will have better access and greater control over their health and care data under new proposals.

Under the proposals, patients will easily be able to access their test results, medication lists, procedures and care plans from across all parts of the health system through patient apps, such as the NHS App, by ensuring data is shared safely and more effectively across the system.

By improving their access to data, people will also be able to manage appointments, refill medications and speak with health and care staff when needed.

The strategy aims to break down data barriers and give patients confidence that health and care staff have up-to-date medical information, regardless of the care setting, enabling clinicians to make quicker, more informed decisions to deliver better treatment.

Improving data collection and the way NHS systems work together will mean staff spend less time collecting and looking for information they need, so they can spend more time with those they are caring for to focus on looking after them.

The strategy proposes a new duty to share anonymous data safely and appropriately across the entire health system so that health and care staff can access the right information when they need it.

New legislation will also be introduced to require all adult social care providers to provide information about all the services they fund to ensure service users have the best care and experience.

This could transform the care of the most vulnerable by ensuring staff have the information they need as soon as they need it, helping to provide the best possible care to the elderly.

In addition, the strategy proposes better use of personal data to analyse key trends in the health of the nation. This could improve the commissioning and planning of services for local communities and allow better preparation to identify, prepare for and respond to future diseases.

Adam Steventon, director of data analytics at the Health Foundation welcomed the strategy but warned that the government must be transparent about how the data will be used in order to build trust.

‘We very much welcome the data strategy. Health data has played a critical role in the last year, from tracking Covid-19 outbreaks and developing treatments, to getting people booked in for their vaccines.

‘It is critical that the use of data is accelerated if the NHS is to tackle the backlog of care and address the massive health challenges facing the country.

‘It is particularly positive that the government has committed to building analytical and data science capability in the NHS and to improving data on social care.

‘To ensure the full potential of data can be realised, the government must ensure transparency on how it will be used and the rights and options people have, as well as engaging with the public and health care professionals to build trust and show people how their data can improve the NHS and save lives.’

turned on black and grey laptop computer

Health bosses said the NHS it committed to using data lawfully, with respect, and holding it securely with the right safeguards in place.

These protections reflect the strict parameters for the use of data and security standards set out by the National Data Guardian for Health and Care.

The new strategy commits the NHS to going even further with a commitment to publish the first transparency statement setting out how health and care data has been used across the sector by 2022.

Matthew Gould, NHSX chief executive, said: ‘Throughout the pandemic we saw examples of data improving care and saving lives – from the speed of vaccine development to the discovery of treatments for COVID-19. If we want to continue improving care, we need to transform how we use data.

‘Patients need to own their data, have access to their data, and have confidence on how the NHS is handling it on their behalf.

This strategy takes this agenda firmly forward, and is good news for patients, staff, citizens and anyone who cares about the future of the NHS.’

The draft strategy proposes:

  • putting patients at the heart of their health and care data, with easy access to their own healthcare records
  • giving health and care staff easier access to the right information to provide the best possible care through shared records and simplified information governance
  • enabling the proportionate sharing of data for the purpose of supporting the health and care system
  • giving adult social care high quality, timely and transparent data so they can make individualised choices to personalise care
  • modernising data architecture and infrastructure underpinning the health and care system to improve standards, protect data and stay ahead of cyber risk
  • supporting innovation for the benefit of patients and staff such as empowering patients to test and monitor changes in their vision remotely using an app, and using AI to assess data from care home worker’s reports to predict the likelihood of falls and hospital admissions of patients, enabling appropriate safeguards to be put in place
  • building on improvements to speed up access to data during the pandemic, where there is clear benefit for the system as a whole.

The plans have been published in draft ahead of engagement with the sector and the public over the summer.

Photo Credit – Lukas Blazek

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