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NHS Digital builds Data Services Platform


Mark Say Managing Editor

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NHS Digital is building a new Data Services Platform as a source of data for research into the health service.

Graham Spearing, portfolio product manager for the organisation outlined the plans at UKAuthority’s Data4Good conference and said it could ultimately replace the NHS Secondary Uses Service.

It is working on the project with a group of technology partners, building the system on an Amazon Web Services cloud platform, and hopes to have it available for first use by spring of next year.

“We’re making de-identified national healthcare data available for planning, commissioning and research, harmonising and rationalising the processing of that data,” Spearing said. “We’re looking to streamline the way that data can come to us, ease burden where possible, and enable a quicker turnaround of data, reporting and analytics.”

“It involves multiple datasets, using standard governance frameworks and a remote access environment for people to use the data.”

Other features will include a master patient service linking to demographics to ensure the right people are associated with the data, a de-identification function to replace patient identifiers, the ability to provide rich metadata, and an analytics environment which users with the appropriate permissions can securely enter to mine the data.

Spearing said that one of the differences between the Data Services Platform and the Secondary Uses Service is that the new system will also provide the internal tools for analysis, rather than users having to request extracts of data for use in their own systems.

Array of tools

“The point is we are providing a rich array of tooling so people can come to a secure environment rather than the data always going out to many places,” he told UKAuthority.

The first two datasets to be uploaded are for mental health and maternity services, which should become available for use by April of next year. Others from across emergency, primary and secondary care will follow, along with social care information from the NHS on areas such as facilities, estates and the workforce.

Spearing said it remains to be seen which external customers will use the platform but was confident that it will attract significant interest for researchers and national arm’s length bodies.

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