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NHS data state of play

by Ken Dunn | 5 months ago | in What to stop

Some work undertaken over 2019 was released in March 2020 detailing some of the shortfalls in NHS processes concerning the collection, analysis and reporting of clinical data.

https://www.ibidb.org/downloads/200311-nhs-data-state-of-play

It is appreciated that the collection, storage and flow of NHS data is complicated, principally because it has evolved in a piecemeal fashion in response to specific pressures and expectations rather than systems having being designed from scratch.  Very rarely has consideration been given to how these developments might improve the delivery of direct clinical care.

As a group of clinicians with extensive experience of NHS data systems we felt it important to make an attempt to draw together some of the key issues we all face.

One of the principal concerns is the lack of ownership of what is an extensive and complicated problem for which there appears to be no overarching plan that primarily focuses on improving the delivery of direct clinical care, and in so doing improve the accuracy and thus the utility of information currently gathered for quality assurance, demand and capacity estimation or commissioning purposes.

If changes are made to reduce the duplication of data collection, analysis and interpretation and the NHS begins to work based on a single version of the truth we feel significant improvements can be brought about, but to do so the full end to end complexity of the current picture needs to be appreciated.

A key driver for this must be to bring about an improvement in the availability of clinically relevant information to frontline staff and an improvement in patient care by the appropriate sharing of linked health information.

Another very important consequence of the current complexity and confusion is that it has caused managers and clinicians at all levels to disengage and develop further isolated standalone data collections rather than to actively try to improve national data collection and flow.

Should this be stopped or restarted in a different way? If you think it should be restarted in a different way then how would you change it from before?

In this paper we go on to suggest that the initial focus for improvements in NHS data collection, flow and utility should be to:

  1. establish clarity of ownership and responsibility for the end to end process
  2. concentrate on providing linked data to front line clinical teams
  3. develop greater standardisation in the way routine data is collected and reported
  4. ensure that NHS data is held and used in the NHS to produce one version of the truth

March, 2020

The original findings remain true, but document now requires updating based on experiences from the pandemic. The clinical Expert Working Group leads working with the National Casemix Office at NHS Digital hope to provide this update and guidance on the necessary steps to be taken.

Ken Dunn

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