Sixteen medical directors have signed a letter in support of the government’s Federated Data Platform (FDP) project as NHS England (NHSE) prepares to announce the winner of the tender to operate the £480 million platform this week.  

As Digital Health News reported Thursday, Vin Diwakar, acting transformation director at NHS England, had sent the open letter to medical directors of trusts that are running FDP pilot projects and asked for their signatures.  

In the letter, which NHSE released late Friday, the clinicians cite the frustrations for patients who need to repeat their medical history in different parts of the NHS and challenges facing staff who must spend time “cross-checking and logging in to different systems” to get information on patients. 

“Our patients come to the NHS at some of the most vulnerable points in their lives, and they want to know that our healthcare teams have access to the best possible information when it comes to their treatment,” the letter said. 

Signatories to the letter included: Dr Angela Tillett, chief medical officer and acting deputy CEO, East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust; Andy Welch, medical director and deputy CEO, Newcastle Hospitals; Edward Morris, regional medical director and chief clinical Information officer, NHS England – East of England Region; Dr Chris Streather, regional medical director and CCIO, medical and digital transformation directorate, NHS England, London Region; and Roger Chinn, Chelsea and Westminster, chief medical officer, responsible officer and CCIO, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. 

The medical directors noted that they have worked closely with NHSE to pilot and test a range of use cases for the new platform, which they said would make it easier to better manage the data currently held in trusts and regions, help drive elective recovery and contribute to population health management.

Results of pilot projects cited 

Pilot projects have included programmes to collect information on hospital bed availability to better manage pressures on urgent and emergency care and optimise surgical theatre use and availability of medical supplies.  

It said these projects have helped to shorten waiting times for planned care, reduce discharge delays and accelerate diagnoses and treatment times. It cited the example of North Tees and Hartlepool Trust, which reduced long term stays by 36% despite increased demand. 

The letter acknowledged that some clinicians continue to have reservations about the FDP and the use of patient data and reiterated the intention of NHS England to address patient and professional concerns about the new platform through the launch of a “national engagement” on the use of health data.  

“The federated data platform is categorically not about collecting new data and is instead about using what we already have better,” the co-signatories wrote, adding that it would include “robust, world-leading data security measures, including purpose-based access controls and an extensive audit trail for accountability.” 

The letter concludes: “Our endorsement of the FDP is based on our extensive experience and involvement in pilot initiatives, where we have witnessed the potential benefits of this technology in optimising medical practices, improving patient outcomes and ensuring the security of healthcare data. 

“In our experience, the FDP has the potential to redefine healthcare delivery by optimising efficiency, empowering clinicians and patients, and enhancing data security. Embracing this innovation will allow us to embark on an era of elevated patient care where data becomes a cornerstone of informed medical decisions.”