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NHSX data strategy due in ‘a few weeks’

NHSX director of policy and strategy Simon Madden says the long-awaited strategy is expected to “trigger huge debates” on issues such as access, choice and transparency, and will be published in draft form shortly to allow for consultation

NHSX will publish its data strategy for health and social care in “a few weeks”, according to its director of policy and strategy, Simon Madden. 

Speaking at the Digital Government Virtual Summit, Madden, who is also chair of the health and care information governance panel, said the strategy would aim to ensure all local systems implement basic shared care records and work “towards longer-term ambitious and comprehensive record sharing across health”.

Health secretary Matt Hancock has already set a September 2021 target for basic shared care records to be deployed across the country.

NHSX announced its plans for a data strategy for health and social care in November 2020, with the aim of setting out a vision on how to share data effectively and efficiently to improve patient outcomes and the burden in the system.

Madden said the strategy would be published in a few weeks’ time in draft form.

“The strategy will trigger huge debates on issues that are really important to people such as access, choice and transparency,” he said. “Publication of the strategy in a draft form is the beginning, rather than the end, of those debates.”

The NHSX data strategy aims to build on work done during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, and the government wants to use the strategy to “empower staff and system leaders to be confident in handling data through simplified information governance, which has proven extremely successful throughout the Covid-19 response”, said Madden.

“We also want to set out rights for citizens to amend and correct their own records, and ensure that every integrated care system offers full patient access to their own records,” he added.

“We also want to adopt safe, effective and ethical data-driven technologies such as artificial intelligence [AI] to improve health outcomes where appropriate. To lock in the beneficial changes, and to capitalise on this momentum around better use of data that we’ve enabled as almost a silver lining of our response to Covid-19, we need to build stuff.”

Madden said the speed at which changes around data use have been made during the pandemic has not always “facilitated the level of public involvement and transparency that we would have liked”, but the government wants to change this.

A simplification of information governance is at the “heart of the thinking around our data strategy”, he added.

The pandemic has led to communities of data professionals and analysts working to lead data-driven, evidence-based decision-making across health and care. On the back of this, NHSX is also launching an AnalystX observatory, a research and engagement initiative that aims to give “deeper insights into the shape, size and needs of the existing health and care analytical workforce”.

Madden said the observatory would “provide a means of understanding the needs of this invaluable section of the health and care workforce to inform a nationwide programme of professional development and support for analysts and our data scientists”.

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