1. Why have the Health Foundation and NHS England set up the Improvement Analytics Unit?

2. Why have the Health Foundation and NHS England embarked on this partnership?

3. How many local initiativewill the Improvement Analytics Unit evaluate over the next three years?

4. How will you publish the analysis conducted by the Improvement Analytics Unit?

5. What will happen to those initiatives where the analysis generated by the unit doesn’t show a positive impact?

6. What metrics will you use to evaluate the local initiatives? What factors are you exploring?

7. What data will the Improvement Analytics Unit analyse?

8. How does the analysis provided by the Improvement Analytics Unit differ from the existing dashboard and other local evaluation initiatives relating to the new care models programme in England?

9. How and when will you report on the success of the Vanguard programme?

10. Is NHS England paying the Health Foundation to conduct this work?

11. How do you identify local improvement initiatives to work with?

1. Why have the Health Foundation and NHS England set up the Improvement Analytics Unit?

The Improvement Analytics Unit will help to build a body of knowledge about which interventions and major new initiatives in the English NHS are successfully improving patient care and share that learning more widely.  It will provide a richer picture of what is happening in frontline services, to help inform decision-making at a local and national level and ultimately improve health and health care for patients and the public.

The Improvement Analytics Unit aims to help  spread the use of data analytics in the NHS for the purposes of quality improvement and to strengthen the robustness of evidence to inform policy development.  The unit supports delivery of NHS England’s commitment to evaluating the impact of major national programmes (such as the new care models). Specifically, it will provide the NHS with the capability of rapidly testing interventions in the health and care system, in as close to real time as possible, so that changes can be implemented to the system as rapidly as possible to improve patient care.

More widely, the Improvement Analytics Unit supports the development of strong and effective health care systems that are equipped to meet the needs of local communities and to respond to emerging priorities for the NHS.

2. Why have the Health Foundation and NHS England embarked on this partnership?

NHS England and the Health Foundation form a strong and complementary partnership. The Health Foundation provides technical and methodological skills as well as knowledge and a reputation for rigour. NHS England provides an embedded mechanism for delivering change as well as access to data and networks within the NHS.

The Health Foundation is contributing to the Improvement Analytics Unit as part of its charitable mission to bring about better health and health care. One element of this is a focus on understanding what are effective interventions and policies that lead to improved health outcomes based on the best evidence available. The Health Foundation team has extensive experience in applying robust evaluation methods and the Improvement Analytics Unit will allow the transfer of that knowledge into the core analytical framework of NHS England.

3. How many local initiatives will the Improvement Analytics Unit evaluate over the next three years?

The unit aims to work with up to 10 local initiatives by the end of 2017/18. By 2019, we expect approximately 20 evaluations will have been conducted.

4. How will you publish the analysis conducted by the Improvement Analytics Unit?

The Improvement Analytics Unit is committed to transparency regarding the analysis it undertakes. Reports will be published following presentation to the local initiative and national programme team and after a suitable period of reflection.

In addition, the Health Foundation will publish a series of reports which will summarise the learning from the Improvement Analytics unit.

5. What will happen to those initiatives where the analysis generated by the unit doesn’t show a positive impact?

The purpose of the feedback reports is to generate learning and improvement at a local and national level. If the results demonstrated at a local level are not in line with expectations, those involved will understandably want to use the evidence alongside other local intelligence to assess whether any appropriate changes should be made in order to improve patient outcomes.  However, some of the impact of the local initiatives may not be fully measured by the data used by the unit.

The potential of the Improvement Analytics Unit is for its analysis to be combined with intelligence at a local level and for this information to guide improvement projects and change to services on the ground.   We know such change is complex and takes time. However, along the way the analysis can be used by those delivering improvements for course correction and to bring valuable insights. 

6. What metrics will you use to evaluate the local initiatives? What factors are you exploring?

The metrics used will vary depending on the initiative being analysed. However, emergency admissions and inpatient bed-days, within a specific patient group, are likely to be benchmarked.

The Improvement Analytics Unit will use a standard set of metric definitions across its studies to ensure consistency, facilitate comparison between studies and enable more rapid production of the analysis.

7. What data will the Improvement Analytics Unit analyse?

The Improvement Analytics Unit uses patient data that has been ‘pseudonymised’ (anonymised according to the Information Commissioner’s Office code of practice). The outcome we evaluate are primarily derived from national secondary care datasets used by NHS England in its statutory and commissioning functions. Where necessary, we link this data with information provided by a local organisation to help identify those patients who received the intervention. In future, we plan to include outcome measures that are derived outside secondary hospital care. The Improvement Analytics Unit employs rigorous standards of information governance and data security.

8. How does the analysis provided by the Improvement Analytics Unit differ from the existing dashboard and other local evaluation initiatives relating to the new care models programme in England?

The Improvement Analytics Unit is an important part of NHS England’s approach to rapid cycle evaluation being applied by NHS England both nationally and locally in the new care models programme. It is part of a spectrum of complimentary evaluation tools available to assess improvement and support learning, and has close links to the dashboard tool.

The analysis provided by the Improvement Analytics Unit will focus on specific patient groups reflecting the nature of the intervention and local context, but will only be available to a few initiatives. Although in time we would hope that other organisations would be able to replicate the methods used for this type of robust, quantitative evaluation through the dissemination of learning and best practice developed by the unit.

9. How and when will you report on the success of the Vanguard programme?

The Improvement Analytics Unit does not aim to judge the success of national programmes or local initiatives. Its purpose is to provide robust evidence about the extent to which there has been a discernible improvement in outcomes following implementation of a new initiative, in order to inform ongoing learning and improvement at a local and national level.

10. Is NHS England paying the Health Foundation to conduct this work?

No. The agreement between the two organisations is based on an equal partnership of sharing resources and there is no financial payment to the Health Foundation or NHS England. Staffing costs are funded jointly by both organisations for the duration of the partnership.

11. How do you identify local improvement initiatives to work with? Who is eligible?

The unit will be focusing on local initiatives that are part of the new care models programme until the end of the 2017/18 financial year, and is also aiming to work with at least one change initiative outside that programme. Sites will be chosen based on criteria which will help to maximise the impact and learning generated by the Improvement Analytics Unit. If you work within a Vanguard or another change initiative and would be interested in working with the Improvement Analytics Unit, please email England.ORET@nhs.net

If you have any further questions relating to the Improvement Analytics Unit, or to register your interest in taking part in an evaluation, please email Adam Steventon or Martin Caunt.