NHS meeting

NHSX data strategy: Patients to have greater access and control

NHSX published their draft strategy: ‘Data saves lives: reshaping health and social care with data’ today. It continues to build on the use of data during the pandemic, with privacy and data security being at the heart of the strategy.

The proposed system will give patients greater access and control over their health data, and the way data is used across health and care sectors will ultimately change. One of the benefits is that it will help push forward new research, enabling staff to improve care and treatments through data. This will also allow records to be shared across the systems more efficiently.

The strategy details how patients will be able to access test results, medication lists, procedures and care plans, from all areas within the health system through patient apps, such as the NHS App. Through this system, data is expected to be shared safely and more effectively. Patients will also have the option to manage their appointments, refill medications, and seek support from staff when requested.

Matthew Gould, NHSX Chief Executive, said: “Throughout the pandemic we saw examples of data improving care and saving lives – from the speed of vaccine development to the discovery of treatments for Covid-19. If we want to continue improving care, we need to transform how we use data.

“Patients need to own their data, have access to their data, and have confidence on how the NHS is handling it on their behalf.

“This strategy takes this agenda firmly forward, and is good news for patients, staff, citizens and anyone who cares about the future of the NHS.”

Changing the way data is used and how NHS systems work together is thought to reduce the time spent by staff collecting and looking for the information they need. This is hoped to then free up time for staff to focus on patients they are caring for.

Another key aspect in the strategy outlines how there will be a duty to share data anonymously, safely and appropriately, to ensure that patient data remains protected. This will also mean the introduction of new legislation, requiring all adult social care providers to share information on services funded by them. This will in turn help make sure the best and most appropriate care is available to service users.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, said: “Data saves lives. More effective use of data will deliver better patient focused care. It will free up staff time to focus on patients and allow clinicians to make better, more informed decisions on treatment and support.

“The pandemic has taught us we must be bold and the great strides we have made on vaccines and treatments during this time have been made possible by the way we use data.

“This strategy seeks to put people in control of their own data, while supporting the NHS in creating a modernised system fit for the 21st century which puts patients and staff in pole position.”

Other aims included using personal data in a better way, such as analysing key trends in health nationally, which could help better meet local needs, by improving the commissioning and planning of services in local areas. It also pointed out that by analysing key trends, it opens up the potential to be better prepared to identify and respond to future diseases.

NHS Medical Director Professor Stephen Powis, said: “For more than a year, NHS staff have been at the forefront of innovations, based on research and development with patients, to help the country deal with the biggest threat in a century, whether it be trialling new treatments like dexamethasone that has saved a million lives around the world from Covid-19, or delivering the biggest and fastest vaccination programme in health service history, this latest initiative will ensure that many more life-saving treatments can be developed for patients by the NHS thanks to better access to data.”

There have already been some positive examples of using data, including giving clinicians  the best chance of making more informed decisions on treatment for Covid-19, and directing resources such as PPE and ventilators to hospitals.

Sir Patrick Vallance, Government Chief Scientific Adviser, said: “The value of timely and comprehensive healthcare data has been brought to light throughout the pandemic.

“Data handling by the NHS has been instrumental in our response, from monitoring the virus to supporting the vaccine rollout. This refreshed strategy builds on this ground-breaking use of data and protecting privacy, and will ensure that it remains an asset for future research and improvements in healthcare.”

Dr Simon Eccles, NHSX’s Deputy Chief Executive, and a practising A&E consultant, said: “Everything we know about how to treat and care for people today has been learnt from the data from previous patients. Researchers, and analysts need safe, quick access to high quality data to provide the insights and better answers for us all.

“Our draft strategy, published today, sets out our plans to make more, higher quality data securely accessible for life saving research. We will also build on platforms such as NHS DigiTrials to enable and support best use of data and digital tools in study feasibility, identification and monitoring of research participants to enable faster, more efficient and effective clinical trials.”

The draft strategy is also open for the public to leave comments, share their thoughts, and engage in a survey before the final version is published.

Read the draft data strategy here.

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