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DHSC publishes data strategy for health and social care

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Image source: GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0

The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) has set out seven principles and said secure data environments will become a default for research in the sector as part of a new data strategy.

Titled Data Saves Lives: Reshaping Health and Social Care with Data, the document also points to funding for the digitisation of social care and makes commitments on patients having greater access to their GP records through the NHS App.

In launching the strategy, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Earlier this year I set out a range of stretching targets for digital transformation in health and care, and we’re making real progress ….

“This landmark document will look at how we can build on this momentum and apply the lessons for challenges ahead of us, including tacking the Covid backlog and making the reforms that are vital to the future of health and care.

“It shows how we will use the power of data to bring benefits to all parts of health and social care.”

Trust, information and innovation

The strategy’s seven principles are: improving trust in the health and care system’s use of data; giving health and care professionals the information they need to provide the best care; improving data for adult social care; supporting local decision makers with data; empowering researchers with the data they need to develop life changing treatments and diagnostics; working with partners to develop innovations that improve health and care; and developing the right technical infrastructure.

It says secure data environments, will be made the default for NHS and adult social care organisations to provide access to de-identified data on individuals for research. The data will only be made available for approved research.

Among the steps planned to promote this are using a secure data environment for the GP Data for Planning and Research programme – subject to HM Treasury approval – the creation of a safe haven for health and care data in NHS England, the development of an accreditation regime and a technical specification to ensure interoperability and cyber security.

This comes with a commitment of £200 million investment in trusted research environments – authorised spaces in which researchers can access de-identified data for approved projects without it being downloaded – although this was referred to in March in an announcement by NHS Digital, which has already created a relevant service.

The document also pledges £25 million over the current financial year for the adoption of digital social care records across England. This follows Javid’s earlier announcement setting a target for 80% of social care providers to be using digitised records by March 2024, and it appears the funding is within the £150 million that would be available to support the effort.

Framework, sharing and skills

Among the plans for the sector are to develop a data framework for adult social care, an accessible data sharing solution with local authorities and suppliers over the next three years, and a digital skills framework with Skills for Care.

The strategy also aims to improve patients’ access to and control of their personal data, saying they should be able to get access to their GP records through the NHS App by November of this year, and to more easily request historic information such diagnosis, blood test results and immunisations by December 2023.

This comes with a target to have 75% of the adult population registered to use the app by March 2024.

In addition, there will be a consultation on a new ‘data pact’ on how the healthcare system uses patient data, which should be in place by December of this year along with a transparency statement within an online hub on the use of data.

DHSC said it will soon follow up with the publication of a digital health and care plan.

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