Academic health science centre UCL Partners is close to finalising a new informatics strategy aimed at developing a “single culture” of information sharing between its partner organisations.

The centre, a partnership of over 40 healthcare providers and universities across north London, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Essex, including University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Barts Health NHS Trust, is one of six official centres which focus on researching new treatments and improving patient care.

Dr Catherine Kelly, UCL Partners’ director of informatics, told EHI the centre decided to develop the strategy as part of a greater focus on informatics and information sharing.

“There’s a lot of recognition that informatics needs to be improved, as it’s really an enabler to delivering better healthcare and better research, so I think it’s really a priority area for everybody.”

Kelly said one of the aims of the strategy is to improve information sharing between the individual care providers and universities, working with a “single culture” rather than separate organisations.

Patients with complex diseases like cancer often dealt with more than one health organisation but information about their condition is not shared as well as it should be, she said.

“There’s very little sharing of information across the boundaries, and to have information that follows the flow of the patient rather than hitting organisation boundaries is quite challenging.”

Improving data sharing will help to reduce clinicians’ frustration at a lack of access to information which can help them, while also allowing patients to have a greater role in managing their own care pathways.

One of the main challenges is the ingrained opposition that some trusts have to sharing their data with others, Kelly said.

“We’re trying to break down traditional cultural barriers to information sharing, because there’s not a consistent approach across partnerships. Some are sharing already and making it work, but with others it’s more challenging.”

Kelly said the centre also wants to improve its collection and use of data, avoiding duplication and ensuring it is used as many times as possible to improve access to data sets for researchers.

The centre will have some funds to support the strategy, which it may use to help connect organisations or developing an additional integration level to support information sharing.

However, Kelly said the centre has not made any decisions on what it will invest in and emphasised that the individual organisations will still choose their own systems.

“It’s very much about maximising the return on existing investments – it’s not about one size fits all.”

Part of the work on the strategy will include an “environment scan” to assess the different technical abilities of each organisation and how they can best be helped.

Kelly said a number of stakeholder meetings to discuss the strategy have already taken place, and a final version will be presented to a chief executives meeting for approval in early June.