NHS South London Commissioning Support Unit is the first to have its Data Service for Commissioners infrastructure signed off, allowing it to process patient confidential data.

The CSU’s director of business intelligence and ICT, Henry Wilson, told EHI the DSC providers worked with the Health and Social Care Information Centre, NHS England and the Department of Health on what the infrastructure should look like.

“We were heavily involved in coming up with what the solution should look like so the next step is implementation to start the data flow,” he said.

Data Service for Commissioners is the name the HSCIC has given England’s nine Data Management Integration Centres. Developed by NHS England, the information centre took over the running of the centres from April in order for them to be able to lawfully process PCD.

The HSCIC has to sign-off the DSC infrastructure as completely separate from the CSU infrastructure before it can handle patient confidential data, as the CSU is not allowed to do so unless it has a legal basis, such as patient consent.

South London CSU has 12 CCG customers for a mix of IT support and business intelligence services as well as supporting some community trusts, GPs and the unit itself.

Wilson said the Health and Social Care Act 2012 places a, “completely different emphasis on how PCD should flow through the system”.

This has resulted in a huge amount of change in the way things need to be done.

“The restrictions around using PCD are far greater than they have been in the past,” he said.

“For us and our customers it’s presented a challenge around responding to that, putting the infrastructure in place and continuously having our ear to the ground as to how things are being adopted.”

Wilson explained that the CSU had to commit a considerable amount of time and resource to keeping customers informed about the complex set of changes around processing patient data, as well as developing the rest of its BI agenda.

“Our IG lead is part of lots of conversations at local and national level that feed into how we interpret the requirements of the Act when it comes to PCD,” he said.

“Our customers have absolutely looked to the CSU to support them in this and be responsive. It’s really important to get it right so we take a prudent view, but we’re also running a business.”

The DSC is already pumping out pseudonymised Secondary Uses Service data to its customers.

The CSU is also applying to become an Accredited Safe Haven so that it can receive datasets with the NHS number as an identifier.

“Once everything is flowing through the DSC and we become an ASH I feel like we will have broken the back of the work in that area,” Wilson said.

“I feel like we have done a lot of the hard pedalling on this issue already so I would like the business intelligence agenda to take primacy.

"We’ve had to respond quickly and at short notice to this issue and we have lots of other things we want to deliver on for our customers and we can move forward more quickly with those things now.”

Wilson believes that BI services are best provided by NHS suppliers that know the local patch and idiosyncrasies of the data.

“There’s no question that we need to achieve efficiencies and economies of scale in some areas, but it’s got to be blended with that local need,” he said.