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New health data strategy to consult public on NHS data use

The government also revealed that only 45% of social care providers use a digital social care record

The government has unveiled a new data strategy for health and social care today in a bid to help patients benefit from faster and more innovative treatment and diagnosis.

The strategy, Data Saves Lives: Reshaping Health and Social Care with Data, sets out reforms for the health and care sector to transform the way data is used to drive breakthroughs and efficiencies, help tackle the Covid backlog, and create a system fit for the future, said the government.

Its principles include improving trust in the health and care systems' use of data, empowering researchers with the data they need to develop life-changing treatments and diagnostics, and developing the right technical infrastructure.

The public is set to be consulted on a new data pact which will set out how the healthcare system will use patient data, and what the public has the right to expect.

Additionally, to help give patients greater confidence that their personal information is safe, secure data environments will be made the default for the NHS and adult social care organisations to provide access to de-identified data for research. The government said that this means data linked to an individual will never leave a secure server, and can only be used for agreed research purposes.

The strategy also aims to give patients greater access to and control over their data. This includes simplifying the opt-out processes for data sharing and improving access to GP records in the NHS App by giving patients access to their latest health information by November 2022. 

“Earlier this year I set out a range of stretching targets for digital transformation in health and care, and we’re making great progress,” said Health and Social Care secretary Sajid Javid. “This landmark document will look at how we can build on this momentum and apply the lessons challenges ahead of us, including tackling the Covid backlog and making the reforms that are vital to the future of health and care.”

The government revealed that only 45% of social care providers use a digital social care record, and 23% of care home staff cannot access the internet consistently at work. The strategy aims for at least 80% of social care providers to have a digitised care record in place by March 2024.

To support this, a £25 million investment will be made available in 2022/23 to help implement digital social care technology across England with integrated care systems. This includes adopting Digital Social Care Records (DSCR) to ensure data is captured at the point of care and can be shared between care settings.

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The new data strategy comes at a time when the US data analytics group Palantir is hoping to become the underlying operating system for the NHS, as part of a bid to win a £360 million contract to manage the data of millions of patients across England, as reported by the Financial Times last week.

The company is expected to bid for the five-year contract for the proposed Federated Data Platform (FDP), a new data tool to integrate and connect patient and other data sources across the health system. The FDP aims to aid clinicians and bureaucrats make real-time decisions more effectively. The contract for the platform is expected to be awarded in November 2022.

To boost its chances of getting the contract, Palantir hired former NHSX AI director Indra Joshi in April as well as Harjeet Dhaliwal, the former deputy to Ming Tang, NHS England’s data chief, who is responsible for the FDP contract and Palantir’s previous contracts with the NHS.

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