New powers have been given to NHS Digital as part of measures to help counter the spread of Covid-19.
This includes collecting and analysing data to help doctors, nurses and other health professionals to understand the illness more; identify patients with Coronavirus or those who are vulnerable to the disease; understand more about how the health service is responding to the threat; and provide services that will make it easier for NHS and social care staff to do their jobs and services to patients, including advice and information on Coronavirus.
A statement from the organisation said Matt Hancock and NHS England gave legal directions for NHS Digital to use existing powers to make it possible for new services to be delivered and data to be used more efficiently to help in the response to the outbreak.
However, Hancock has also issued a notice under the ‘Control of Patient Information’ regulations (COPI)1 authorising NHS Digital to disseminate information to approved organisations in order to help them to effectively tackle the pandemic.
Dr Jem Rashbass, executive director of master registries and data at NHS Digital, said: “This is a rapidly moving situation and data is key to helping us understand how best to protect individuals at risk, know what is happening to patients and ensure that the NHS under pressure can deliver effectively.
“We are facing one of the most significant challenges in modern times and information about the virus, and people’s experience of it, is key to the research in pursuit of a vaccine or to gain new insights about the disease.
“NHS Digital will work closely with trusted partners to ensure that data is collected, analysed and disseminated in a way which best supports the whole system.”
NHS Digital is already responsible for patient data and already collects, analyses and securely disseminates health and social care data, including patient information where it is lawful and appropriate to do so.
It is also operates NHS 111 Online, which has experienced a surge of activity since the outbreak of Covid-19.
Digital Health is running a programme of webinars which will share lessons and knowledge on how health and care organsiations can and are using digital tools to help meet the unique challenges of responding to Covid-19.
The first is taking place on Friday (March 20) at 12.30pm.