Gordon Brown has promised to “radically open up data and public information.” Launching the ‘Putting the frontline first: smarter government’ report, Brown said “great detail” about how hospitals perform would be put online during 2010.

He said the information would “encourage feedback and dialogue between professional and citizen” and help “to benchmark the best and the worst and drive better value for money.”

The announcement follows the uproar surrounding the release of Dr Foster’s Hospital Guide last week, which rated hospitals for safety on various data.

Dr Foster Intelligence has faced heavy criticism for not being clear about the methodology it uses to determine the ranking for each trust. In response to the publication of the guide, the Care Quality Commission said it was not planning to step in at any more trusts.

The Smarter Government report says the government will release thousands of public data sets and more detailed data on departmental spends onto its data.gov site. This will include the data underpinning the NHS Choices website.

The document also pledges to publish hospital trust-level reference costs for specific treatment categories online in early 2010 and to introduce best practice tariffs in 2010-11 to address unexplained variation in quality.

The report argues that releasing publicly held data for reuse can encourage economic growth, citing a study by the University of Cambridge, which found that releasing a subset of the public data that is currently sold could be worth £160m in the first year.

Brown said: “Releasing data can and must unleash the innovation and entrepreneurship at which Britain excels – one of the most powerful forces of change we can harness.”

The report also emphasises the need for public services to make more use of information and other technology, such as interactive online services and text messaging, to improve efficiency and cut costs as the public finances worsen.

Link: Putting the Frontline First: smarter government