A new data strategy for health and care

The Department of Health and Social Care has published its final version of the NHS’s data strategy, Data saves lives, setting out its commitment in seven core areas. It is the clearest articulation of how the Department intends to ensure that data will be used to improve the health and care of the population in a safe, trusted and transparent way.

Its arrival is critical to the new integrated care systems who are responsible for making digitally enabled care mainstream across the NHS, with support and guidance from What Good Looks Like, Who Pays for What and the Unified Tech Fund.

The strategy covers:

  1. Improving trust in the health and care system’s use of data
  2. Giving health and care professionals the information they need to provide the best possible care
  3. Improving data for adult social care
  4. Supporting local national decision-makers with data
  5. Empowering researchers with the data they need to develop life-changing treatments, diagnostic models of care and insights
  6. Working with partners to develop innovations that improve health and care; and
  7. Developing the right technical infrastructure

The Data strategy is one of a number of data and digital publications the UK government published last month, including plans for a Data Reform Bill following consultation on the future of the UK data protection regime.

The strategy is a momentous achievement from the NHS and the DHSC. It is backed by a series of ‘concrete commitments’ covering:

  • investing in secure data environments to power life-saving research and treatments;
  • using technology to allow staff to spend more quality time with patients; and
  • giving people better access to their own data through shared care records and the NHS App

Annex B of the strategy sets out the list of commitments and timelines for achievement.

The data strategy has moved on since its publication in June 2021 and responds to the recommendations of the Goldacre review: Better Broader Safer: using health data for research and analysis.

Specifically, the strategy commits to:

  • implementing secure data environments or TREs as the default across the NHS supported by a set of draft guidelines which will soon be formalised in technical specification and an accreditation framework
  • improving the Information Governance Framework
  • creating fit for purpose rules around different types of data, such as pseudonymising data
  • simplifying the national data opt-out

Commentary on the recommendations of the Goldacre review and how they are being taken forward under the strategy’s commitments are set out at Annex D.

In short, the final data strategy provides a framework to allow data to be productively used, enhancing all aspects of care.

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