This report is going to explore what types of information and data the National Health Service keeps on patients and why that particular data and information source is so valuable to how the NHS functions as an organisation and provides a high quality of healthcare. It is an also going to look at what the needs of the NHS are and why data and information that is collected by the NHS is valuable and what possible constraints may need to be applied to make sure their security is fully up to date, they are accrued and reliable as possible.

 

The NHS (National Health Service) was set up in 1948 and is one of the largest public sectors in the world. It was set up on the basic principle that healthcare should be equally available to everyone and not based on a person’s background or wealth. With over 66 million people in the UK, the NHS see over 1 million patients in a 36-hour period for various reasons. This means that there are huge amounts of data and information needed in order for the NHS to functions successfully. The NHS says it collects data and information to better look after patients and give them the correct treatment and care. They ensure you that all information they have about you, this could be medical records, are kept securely and only the correct people can see the relevant information only at the times they need to see it. The NHS also collect data to ensure it is successfully and efficiently managed.

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Information is described as the ‘lifeblood’ of the NHS and in charge of data and information is the Chief Data Officer (Dr Geraint Lewis) and his team. The team is split up into three different units which are:

–       The Data Policy Unit- This unit works alongside stakeholders, clinicians, researchers, patient groups etc. to make sure and see how important they are to information standards, transparency, open data and how information is governed. After they put together all the information that’s been input they decide on the data policy and then send the requirements to the Data Project Unit.

–       The Data Project Unit-  This unit also works with stakeholders and is closely focused on realising what benefits and resources available to the NHS be it through contractual and statutory powers, development of projects and certain publications.

–       The Data Sharing and Privacy Unit- This unit known as DSPU helps by giving a helping hand and guidance on information that is shared, privacy, keeping on top of/ managing information governance strategic, risks and issues that show up in different projects and programmes in the NHS. They also work with the IGA, which stands for the Information Governance Alliance, and with the HNS Corporate Information Governance Team. They are in charge of the NHS’s internal information governance.

According to the Chief Data Officer, all three of these units work very closely together to make sure the NHS understand what exactly what data is needed from patients while making sure the rights of said patient are respected and ‘adhere to the interlocking legal framework.’ In order for the NHS to run as successfully as it is the data and information collected by these three units are key as it gives an insight into what policies are needed in regard to data collection and how they are set up and what information client and stakeholders need.

 

Within the NHS information Standards are the key to getting correct health data about patients to the correct medical professionals at the right time. The NHS uses these standards on a daily basis to send data about things like care that patients have undergone and supported the services that they have provided. Information Standards are a set of rules that process, capture, manage and share various bits of data and information. Now that the NHS is more ‘computerised’ there is demanded to share patient’s information across different information systems for quick and easy access. The different information systems have to be able to understand one another so every medical professional can give the patient the correct care. An example of this could be a patient has come into A&E with a broken arm and the doctor in A&E shares the diagnosis with the patients GP but the A&E doctor and GP both use different systems with different ways of storing and recording data. Both systems need to ‘talk’ or communicate with one another in a secure way using ‘common terminology’ so there is no data loss or data being leaked and seen by the wrong people. In the very centre of Information Standard is patient safety. All information stored of patient in the NHS is recorded and shared securely within the law. There is large amount of befits of using information standards in the NHS for patients and healthcare professionals which include:

For Patients

–       Improved Safety- Patients information is available to carers on demand to make sure you get the best care.

–       Improved access to information- Your medical records will be able to be seen by professionals easily which will improve care needed and patients will have access to their own records.

–       Improved services- helps to develop tools that will help and benefit patients

 

For healthcare professionals

–       Quality of care- All professionals understand details of patinas care

–       Access to records- Professionals have access to all medical records making it easier to give a patient the right care.

–       Access to information- professionals will be able to give patients better access to information allowing patients to be well informed about their conditions.

 

Open Data is another key functionality that helps the NHS run and keeps an open relationship with patients and stakeholders. Open Data is data and information that is released by a public body, i.e. the NHS, and is made freely available for any sort of use. Open data is different to data sharing as it holds very little patient data and has safeguards in place. Open data is key as it can help the decision making of care providers, researchers and patients. Open data can also help with thinking of new decisions within the NHS (for things like new policies) and let an outsider look and help with any inefficiency and how it can be fixed. Open data can be used by the NHS to help improve things like the quality of the care provided and help to lower healthcare costs. The NHS has a ‘responsibility’ to develop policies around open data. This is because open data helps to show unacceptable practice and put a stop to it ultimately bringing forward a stronger NHS. Open data also allows the community to have their say on what their local health centres need or look like. The NHS does this by using Open Data and also by working with stakeholders and putting forward advice and support in publications. This could be done by publishing the different between two builds like hospitals or GP practices to show the differences.

Open Data has a number of different benefits which are:

–       Accountability- Open Data could be used to hold a healthcare organisation accountable for a for something like the outcome of a treatment.

–       Choice- Open Data lets patients make their own highly informed choices about healthcare options

–       Efficiency- Makes the healthcare more cost-effective.

–       Customer Services- Open Data gives patients the ability to educate themselves and help their families which makes healthcare organisations more responsive.

–       Economic Growth and Innovation- Open Data can help build new healthcare companies.

 

In summary, in order to function as a successful organisation, the NHS uses Data and Information to its full advantage. They have a whole department set up where its purpose is to collect and use data and information to decide on new policies and find ways to share patient information so it is easier for medical professionals to find it but also make sure it is secure. The NHS also uses Information Standards which is a set of rules that process, capture, manage and share various bits of data and information. They use data and information to communicate from department to department, from one system to another allowing them to know about a particular patient’s ailments. The NHS also uses open data which is information that is made available to the public, this has helped with feedback and allowing patients to educate themselves.

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