The UK is leading the world in its publication of healthcare datasets, the government’s transparency tsar Tim Kelsey has said.
“Nobody has created a knowledge-based health system anywhere in the world. But in some respects the UK is in a global leadership position, we’ve published more data than anywhere else,” he told delegates at the BCS Health Informatics conference.
The news follows the announcement that GP record information will be opened up in the next six months as part of the Department of Health’s plan to release healthcare data.
Kelsey said the challenge is to engage the public in using data to inform their choices. “We’ve got leadership by accident. We will have to take risks and be uncautious about how we approach [this].”
Doctors should no longer be the gatekeepers of information, he said. “We need to move fast and be radical in engaging the public as [being in control] of their own data sources.”
He said: “I’m worried by some of the language we are using, there’s a danger we are going back to the language of the last decade [which talked about] very technocratic solutions.”
The new commissioning board will need to communicate the benefits of using data as an effective source of information for patients and clinicians, he said.
He added the perception of information in health needed to change: “[It’s not about] doctors getting their act together with a load of databases.”
He said: “From the prime minister downward there’s a strong commitment to driving SME engagement with this agenda.
“The NHS’ future depends on creating a knowledge base as does that of the public sector generally.”
But privacy campaigners have raised concerns around government plans to release healthcare information to private sector organisations.
Jim Killock, founder of digital rights organisation the Open Rights Group, said: “The notion of open data is about government transparency around government performance. But personal datasets being analysed for commercial interests is not for the public or open data. These issues should be dealt with separately,” he said.