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Private health provider data could be shared with NHS England

Plans are advancing to create a single source of healthcare data in England combining both private providers and the NHS to avoid a repeat of the Ian Paterson scandal

Plans in development to create a “single source” of healthcare data in England to enhance patient safety are moving closer to reality with the publication of a report by the Acute Data Alignment Programme (ADAPt), which has today (14 December) recommended that private healthcare providers should be able to routinely share information with the NHS.

ADAPt is a joint initiative between NHS Digital and the Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN), and was set up in 2018 following the conviction of rogue breast cancer surgeon Ian Paterson, who performed harmful and unnecessary surgery on thousands of people in both NHS and private settings.

In 2020, an inquiry found that a culture of avoidance and denial in a dysfunctional healthcare system had let Paterson get away with his behaviour. He is currently serving a 20-year prison term for wounding with intent and unlawful wounding.

The inquiry also recommended the creation of a single source of information for all consultant activity wherever they may be practising, underpinned by common standards that would record and report activity, quality and risk in a more consistent way.

“NHS Digital has worked closely with PHIN on this important step towards aligning data collection for all acute providers – NHS and private,” said James Austin, director of data strategy and policy at NHS Digital.

“Patient safety is the ultimate driver for this and creating a single source of healthcare data will help provide better insights and lead to improved care and treatment for patients in the NHS and private healthcare.

“Patients can also be assured that the private provider data will be subject to the same stringent controls and protection as the NHS data we collect and hold.”

In the report, which comes ahead of a proposed public consultation on the proposal, to take place in 2023, ADAPt said it believed data on admitted patient and outpatient care could be shared to provide a more comprehensive insight into treatment and care standards for both the NHS and private providers, ultimately improving patient safety – as a great many patients already access both public and private health services.

It added that the data collected would be covered by the same security protections and confidentiality measures as that generated by the NHS, as well as the same rules around data-sharing and data access requests, which are themselves very much in flux as the NHS moves closer towards adopting an ambitious federated data platform.

ADAPt said pilot projects have already showed benefits around information sharing, and demonstrated that private providers can easily submit data directly to NHS Digital.

The report recommends that PHIN – which already acts as a data aggregator and controller – share a national dataset of private providers’ admitted patient care data in England with the NHS through to March 2024, at which point the NHS will hopefully have capacity to collect this data through the same system it will use to collect its own data.

In this way, the health and social care sector as a whole will – in England at least – be able to gain a greater understanding of healthcare for providers, regulators and researchers, with meaningful impact on patient care.

PHIN chief medical officer Jon Fistein said: “Patients and people considering their healthcare choices are at the centre of everything we do: from serving people in helping them making better-informed choices, to supporting the NHS and private sector to better understand and improve services through the collection of data. We are confident that the ADAPt programme can contribute to those aims.”

The full report can be accessed here.

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