Digitising, connecting and transforming health and care

Every day, NHS staff and clinicians are delivering care in new and innovative ways, achieving better outcomes for patients and driving efficiency. Scaling and sharing these innovations across the health and care system in England is a key challenge for the NHS.

That is why NHS England is investing in a data platform to support health and care organisations to make the most of the information they hold and to work together to understand patterns, solve problems and plan services for their local populations. Ultimately, the goal is to help the NHS transform the health and care of the people it serves.

A ‘data platform’ refers to software which will enable NHS organisations to bring together operational data – currently stored in separate systems – to support staff to access the information they need in one safe and secure environment. This could be the number of beds in a hospital, the size of waiting lists for elective care services, or the availability of medical supplies.

A ‘federated’ data platform means that every hospital trust and integrated care system (ICS) will have their own platform but they are able to connect and share information between them where this is helpful. For example, to discharge a patient from hospital into a care setting (when the appropriate data sharing agreements are in place).

A digitised, connected NHS can deliver services more effectively and efficiently, with people at the centre.

Better outcomes and experience for people

A more efficient NHS ultimately means a better service for patients, reduced waiting times and more timely treatment. The platform will provide ICSs the insights they need to understand the current and future needs of their populations so they can tailor early preventative interventions and target health and care support. Patients will have more flexibility and choice about how and where they access services and receive care, helping them to stay healthy for longer.

Better experience for staff

NHS staff will be able to access the information they need in one secure place. This reduces the time they spend chasing referrals, scheduling appointments, and waiting for test results and allows them to work more flexibly to deliver high quality care for their patients.

A federated data platform

A federated data platform will provide trusts and ICSs with a set of core capabilities and nationally developed solutions. Initially, these solutions will focus on supporting five key NHS priorities:

  1. Elective recovery – to address the backlog of people waiting for appointments or treatments which has resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic alongside Winter pressures on the NHS.
  2. Vaccination and immunisation – to continue to support the vaccination and immunisation of vulnerable people whilst ensuring fair and equal access and uptake across different communities.
  3. Population health management – to help integrated care systems proactively plan services that meet the needs of their population.
  4. Care coordination – to enable the effective coordination of care between local health and care organisations and services, reducing the number of long stays in hospital.
  5. Supply chain management – to help the NHS put resources where they are need most and buy smarter so that we get the best value for money.

Future national use cases will go through an extensive process of identification and prioritisation, in line with the principles of data minimisation as set out in the UK General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

A federated data platform will also provide trusts and ICSs with the capability to develop their own digital tools that address their most pressing operational challenges and enhance their ability to make informed and effective decisions.

Early evidence from pilot sites shows significant and measurable benefits being realised. The roll out of this technology across the NHS in England will support levelling up and embed the highest standards of data access and use – all while improving patient care and experience and reducing burden on frontline staff.

The contract notice and standard selection questionnaire was published on 10 January 2023. Suppliers that passed the standard selection questionnaire moved to Stage 2 of the procurement and were required to submit outline bids for evaluation by 3 April 2023.

We are working towards Summer 2023 for the contract award. More information about the procurement is available here.

Patient and public involvement

We want to make sure that people are happy with the way their data is used within the federated data platform. As part of our plans, we will:

  • Actively engage and involve people in decisions about how data is used with the platform, and how we best meet our duty of transparency and open communication.
  • Publish clear and accessible information about who is accessing data, and for what purpose.
  • Be clear about people’s rights and choice to opt out (where applicable).

Further information