NHSX is to set up a Data Strategy for Health and Social Care to capitalise on “good practice” responses to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The strategy will build on work such as the NHS Covid-19 Data Store, which was set up as a front door for access to data during the pandemic, with the aim to reduce red tape around data and information governance.
The drive for better use of data and digital services, including remote monitoring and digital prescriptions, was highlighted in a government consultation on reducing bureaucracy in the NHS.
As part of the work the Department of Health and Social Care will consult on legislative changes for data collection to “harness beneficial changes as a result of Covid-19 process changes”.
NHSX will also convene a new Data Alliance Partnership, bringing together key bodies such as the Care Quality Commission, NHS Business Services Authority, Public Health England and NICE, with an aim to establish principles on data collection, sharing and use.
The partnership will “facilitate increased access to data, by making aggregate/anonymised data accessible by default”.
Health secretary Matt Hancock launched a “bureaucracy-busting mission” at the NHS Confederation’s NHS Reset conference on 24 November.
It aims to lock in positive changes seen during the pandemic to “empower frontline health and care staff”.
“In the pandemic, we’ve seen that little things can make a big difference, for instance letting doctors and nurses communicate with patients securely over WhatsApp or providing single logins across multiple different computers,” he said.
“I’m determined that we seize this moment and build on the very best of what we have seen over these past nine months.”
More than 600 respondents to the consultation named 1,000 examples of excess bureaucracy that they face in their day-to-day jobs, such as improving the way data is collected and shared to allow our frontline staff to focus more on patient care.
Based on these responses the government listed eight priorities for reducing red tape, including better sharing and use of data and greater digitisation of services.
Investment in digital technology will make processes more “streamlined, intelligent and accessible”, the consultation found.
Remote monitoring can reduce paperwork by automating appointments, avoiding unnecessary appointments and freeing up clinician’s time, it added.
The use of electronic prescribing was also noted as a tool to help slash red tape through reducing medication errors by up to 30%.
The track record on transparency
Several measures were introduced during the pandemic to provide quicker access to much-needed data to inform the national response to coronavirus.
But the government has faced fierce criticism over its lack of transparency around data contracts and scope for which that data can be used by private tech firms.
A damning National Audit Office report on procurement during the pandemic found a general lack of transparency and adequate documentations around key decisions “such as why particular suppliers were chosen or how government identified and managed potential conflicts of interest”.
Contracts that have caused concern among tech justice advocates are those relating to AI firms Palantir and Faculty and their role in the NHS Covid-19 Data Store.
At the time Faculty was drafted in to help run the Data Store, at a cost of £2.3 million, cabinet minister Lord Agnew held £90,000 shares in the company, though it was determined there was no conflict of interest.
The appointment of Faculty and Palantir sparked legal proceedings from tech justice firm Foxglove Legal and openDemocracy over the lack of transparency surrounding the contracts.
The contracts were eventually published just hours before proceedings were due to begin, revealing that the firms were originally granted intellectual property rights to train their technology and profit off access to NHS data.
Faculty has assured Digital Health News the company “cannot and would not use” data from the Data Store outside the NHS.