Data Saves Lives strategy – risks ‘never mind the quality, feel the width‘ approach

Let us raise at least two cheers for the latest edition of the Data Saves Lives strategy, with its foundational aim of improving public trust in the use of data.  Confirming the Goldacre suggestion of giving research companies access to secure data via TRE’s (Trusted Research Environments) is a logical step given the £200 million investment already announced there. As is the expansion of the use of the NHS App for greater access to GP records – although getting usage up to 75% by March 2024 may prove a challenge.

Data most certainly can save lives and create efficiencies and care improvements across the service, but we need public buy-in and confidence.  This strategy promises to earn that confidence. More widely it promises to bring social care into the fold – a huge undertaking. With years of underfunding, only 45% of social care providers using a digital care record and 23% of care home staff lacking consistent internet access – the challenge cannot be underestimated. 

Data quality vital for public confidence

Whilst the strategy talks a lot about connecting environments to transform care, enabling smoother transitions between NHS services and social care, giving health and care professionals access to the information they need at the point of care – it puts far too little weight on the quality of the data. The more people access this data, and the more reliance placed on it, the more important that it is correct.

As Simon Madden, NHS Transformational Digital Policy Unit, said: “This strategy commits to ‘resetting the relationship with the public’…”. Let’s not mess this up by continuing to tolerate inaccurate or incomplete data.

Analysts working miracles with poor quality data

Looking around the NHS today we see information analysts working miracles to bring disparate data together, using hand-written code of mind-boggling complexity that is vulnerable to failure if key staff leave or an underlying IT system changes. At the other end of the spectrum, we see advanced proprietary data products being deployed without sufficient understanding of intricate NHS processes and clinical pathways, leading to opaque or simplistic data feeds and high costs of refinement.

Insource dealt with those problems 20 years ago, and today we have advanced data products that are not only meticulous and accurate, but also transparent and resilient and customised specifically for the NHS. Our day job is flowing data consistently to and from the acute, mental health, community, ambulance, GP and ICS settings, and from all the disparate IT systems they use, and linking their complex patient pathways end to end as well.

Insource 20-year track record of unifying data

In short, we have a track record of unifying NHS data automatically from anywhere and bringing it together into a single source of truth that is better than the source systems it came from.

So, whilst the latest strategy may risk a never mind the quality, feel the width’ approach, we firmly believe that quality must go hand in hand with quantity. Even better, we have the tried and trusted tools that make that a reality.

See more information on our Unified Data Layer