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HSCIC examines info flows for social care



National care informatics body extends work on data to support integration between the two care sectors

The central informatics organisation for the NHS has begun to look at the information flows needed in the integration of health and social care.

The Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), soon to become NHS Digital, is aiming to create a set of information standards and is working with the Local Government Association (LGA) and Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass) on bringing social care input into the process.

It is seen as a necessary step in supporting the integration of health and social care, one of the features of the NHS Five Year Forward View and a long standing aspiration of government.

Two of its officials outlined the work at the Adass Informatics conference this week. James Palmer, programme head for social care delivery, said: “We’re forming a partnership with the LGA and ADASS to ensure that whatever we are developing we are able to talk to the sector and bring some of the sector intelligence with us. Without that we can’t put together services and products that the sector wants to use.”

Roadmaps and standards

He said that HSCIC has identified about 60 information flows and over the next six months will create a roadmap for working on those it believes will provide most benefits for social care. This will lead to the creation of national standards, the first of which should be launched next month to cover assessment, discharge and withdrawal from hospitals.

The next will be for GP to social care then for information between social care organisations. “We have aspirations to do a lot more,” he added.

HSCIC has tools it to support the standards. Palmer described these as a web form facility as the ‘generator’ of information, the ‘adaptor’ for the exchange of information between healthcare and community organisations, and the ‘interpreter’ for dealing with the terminology.

Mark Nicholas, the organisation’s social care lead, said it is also raising a research proposal on the use of technology by social care professionals, and plans to release more information soon.

“We’re interested in what works and what doesn’t and how it could support their professional role better,” he said.


One of the issues underlying the conference was a concern among social care officials that they are not being included in discussions about the integration of data and systems with the NHS. A delegate said that the recently announced name change from HSCIC to NHS Digital was a discouraging sign.

Nicholas acknowledged that there is an urgent need to align the data infrastructures of the two sectors.

“The gap between infrastructures for health and social care will only get greater unless some of the technology and informatics needs of local authorities are addressed,” he said, adding that the organisation needs to understand how some of its products, such as the summary care record, could contribute to social care.

“As well as existing products we need to develop new products to meet specific social care requirements. Once we know more about the needs of the sector we can be in the business of helping to meet them.”

The LGA is also involved in a project with the Department of Health to develop informatics standards to support the Care Act.

Picture by schnaars, CC 2.0 via flickr

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