Information standards (including data collections and extractions) are core to the safe and efficient running of health and social care services; with clear benefits for patients, service users and staff. The standardisation and appraisal of information standards have always been a vital part of the health and social care system for many years, to support the consistent capture and use of data, and ensure all users have the same understanding of the data.
In the 1980’s Edith Körner chaired the national review of NHS data, resulting in the NHS data model (The Körner data model report) being implemented from April 1987. The same year also saw the establishment of the Committee for Regulating Information Requirements (CRIR).
In 2001 the Information Standards Board for Health and Social Care (ISB) was established by the NHS Information Authority (NHSIA) to govern information standards
In the 2010’s the main provisions of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 came into force on 1 April 2013 giving the Secretary of State for Health or NHS England the authority to prepare and publish information standards. From 1 April 2014 the Standardisation Committee for Care Information (SCCI) holds responsibility for agreeing information standards for health and social care, including the NHS in England.
Why have the changes occurred?
The Health and Social Care Act 2012 (the Act) has introduced several drivers for reviewing and redesigning the development, appraisal and publication of information standards.
- The Act gives information standards a new legal status with the Secretary of State for Health and NHS England empowered to publish an information standard. This means providers and commissioners of publicly funded health and social care services must have regard to them.
- The Act gives data collections through the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) a new legal status with the power to collect data.
- The Act brings into being a new governance framework for the approval of information standards thfrough the Standardisation Committee for Care Information. As a result the Information Standards Board for Health and Social Care (ISB) no longer exists and is no longer the approver of information standards.
- The establishment of the National Information Board (formerly the Informatics Services Commissioning Group) provides for the first time an integrated commissioning arrangement for informatics services for health and social care in England.
- The Act requires that all information standards must be consulted on prior to their publication as part of an open and transparent process.
Further details on the legal instruments used to support the publication of information standards and the establishment of information systems can be found on the Information Standards Approvals and Directions page.
These drivers are key to the development of secure, interoperable (sharable), digital information services across the health and social care system. Information technology and standards are fundamental building blocks to the delivery of patient and citizen focused services via increased safety, quality, participation and transparency. This will require a high level of collaboration between stakeholders driving focused and coordinated investment. Drawing its membership from a range of stakeholder organisations within health and social care, the Standardisation Committee for Care Information (SCCI) has been formed to support this collaborative approach with its role as the approver for information standards.
The role of SCCI and wider stakeholder involvement in the development and approval of information standards supports one of the key ambitions of the Department of Health’s information strategy for the health and social care system: ‘The power of information: Putting all of us in control of the health and care information we need‘:
“Information recorded once, at our first contact with professional staff, and shared securely between those providing our care – supported by consistent use of information standards that enable data to flow (interoperability) between systems whilst keeping our confidential information safe and secure”
Delivering this will support the health and social care system to:
- reduce the need to capture the same information multiple times
- minimise transcription and transformation errors caused by recording information in paper form, thereby improving patient outcomes
- apply appropriate access controls and audit technologies to ensure information is only accessed where a legal basis exists.
These are just some of the benefits of having agreed information standards in place across the health and social care system.
What do these changes mean?
The new collaborative approach has been developed to build on the experience and successes of previous methodologies. This requires new ideas for information standards to be routed through a single front-door service. This both enables expert skills to be utilised throughout the process, and ensures a consistent, managed and agreed progression of new work. This is essential to achieve the vision of building on existing collected data where possible, and reducing the burden on providers of this data.
Openness and transparency are primary objectives of the new process. The new process provides a single methodology for approving information standards and a means of accessing detailed information about the work, from initial submission through to publication. This enables a transparent process for all interested parties. The new “submit this for consideration” service allows anyone with an idea for a new piece of work to formally submit this for consideration. In addition, mechanisms are in place to ensure appropriate open consultation takes place during the development and retirement of information standards, thereby facilitating access to input into the process.