A year ago, we signalled the start of a journey on data with the publication of Data Saves Lives, our data strategy for health and social care. The pandemic showed us the power of data to transform health and care, and due to the urgency, we learned to work differently.
Our transformation vision is for a truly 21st-century health and care system, which is even more efficient, responsive and ultimately safer. The single biggest agent of change is you – colleagues working across health and care. Your need for high quality and accessible data, which, together with your skills and experience, help you make the right decisions for the public, is supported by the 100+ commitments set out in Data Saves Lives. This month marks one year on from publication and provides a good opportunity to reflect on the progress made so far, and the priorities for the year ahead.
A lot has changed in the twelve months since publication of the Data Saves Lives – including in the health and care system itself. Integrated care systems became legally responsible for the planning and delivery of health and care services, and the functions of NHS Digital were transferred to NHS England, to create a single organisation with responsibility for data and its transformative power to support integrated care system (ICS) delivery.
Our vision in Data Saves Lives is to build public trust and establish modern data systems that are fit for purpose. We also want to improve how we use data in the health service (for direct care, planning, research, and innovation), and across adult social care.
Over the last 12 months, we’ve delivered over half of the commitments made in the strategy. Most of these have been about laying the necessary foundations for the future:
- getting the right technical systems in place by promoting common data standards, moving to cloud computing, and setting out a target data architecture to move towards in order to provide a more joined-up approach to tech and digital.
- improving our analytical capabilities in the NHS through a new workforce observatory (AnalystX), competency framework, and NHS analytics hub.
- helping staff feel more confident in sharing data securely through simplified Information Governance guidance and updates to the Data Security and Protection Toolkit’s accompanying guidance, in advance of a more substantial overhaul.
We’ve also made progress beyond these foundations. For example, each integrated care system now has a shared care record in place, allowing key information to be shared between GP practices and NHS trusts. And the majority of social care providers are now using digital records, replacing old paper records. Changes like these are delivering benefits to patients and the public day-in, day-out. You can read more about the progress we have made in the implementation update.
It’s clear that NHS data drives lifesaving research and innovation. To fully harness the power of NHS data while keeping it safe, we committed last year to moving from a system that relies on data sharing to one where data must be accessed. This allows researchers to analyse data and use the results, but does not require them to receive copies of datasets. This change will be delivered through investments in Secure Data Environments. Our recent policy update provides further clarity on this positive but complex change, and shows our commitment to learn, listen, and work out in the open.
Data Saves Lives set out an ambitious direction, and good progress has been made on implementing it. Now we need to move deeper into the delivery phase, so more people can enjoy the benefits of a modern, data-driven approach. Everyone who has an interest in saving lives in the health and care sector is connected to using data – collecting it, creating standards for accessing it, keeping it safe and accurate.
What does this next phase look like? Smarter sharing of data both within the NHS (through the Federated Data Platform) and with trusted partners (through Secure Data Environments); more choice and control for people over how their data is used and accessed; and greater public awareness and buy-in for this digital transformation – supported by products like the Standards for Public Engagement, and work led by the Senior Responsible Officer for Data for Research and Development, Dr Claire Bloomfield and team, on the NHS Research Secure Data Environment Network.
There’s a lot left to do, but we remain as excited as ever about the potential of data to improve services and transform lives and about being on this journey with you. In this spirit, we want to hear your views. We want to know how we can better support you to implement the vision set out in the data strategy. We’re also interested in whether there is anything else, that isn’t covered in the strategy, that you think would be helpful in achieving this vision. You can share your views with us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.