The Health Foundation has announced that it is creating a network of data specialists from across the UK to help address some of the key challenges facing health and care services today.
The Networked Data Lab is the first data network of its kind that will bring together local analytical teams from across the country to gather insights and develop a deeper understanding of the factors affecting people’s health. It will work with patients and the public from the start, maintain patient privacy, and use data securely.
With the challenges facing health and care services becoming increasingly complex, the need to find ways to understand what is happening on the ground is growing. While there is already a wealth of data available about the care people receive from multiple sources – from GPs and specialist services to hospital care and local authorities – data are hugely fragmented and often don’t capture the entirety of the care patients receive.
The Networked Data Lab aims to address this by using data some local areas have linked together and creating unique insights that will help national and local decision makers to better understand the needs of their community and how to improve services. These include addressing health inequalities, social care provision and the social determinants of health.
In doing so it aims to improve existing services, and design new approaches to delivering care to patients. The analysis could also be used to gain a fuller understanding of the health of local populations by suggesting the types of people that are most vulnerable or require bespoke care.
The Networked Data Lab will support local teams to run the same analysis on local datasets across the country, helping to build a more complete picture of the quality of care. For example, by linking data from GPs, A&E services and specialist local mental health services, the work of the Networked Data Lab could identify some of the drivers of emergency attendances and admissions for young people living with severe mental illness.
From the outset, the Networked Data Lab will engage with patients and the public to inform its analysis to ensure that data are used in a legitimate and transparent way. It will also create open source tools for the wider analytics community to use.
Sarah Deeny, Assistant Director of Data Analytics at the Health Foundation, comments:
‘Every day, the NHS collects vast amounts of data which could be used to improve the care patients receive. But data alone is not a magic bullet for improving care. By bringing together different datasets and expertise from analysts in local areas we can paint a much clearer picture of our health needs and develop deeper insights than ever before.
‘The Networked Data Lab aims to maximise the potential of data to give local and national decision makers unique insight into our overall health and our interaction with health and care services.
‘We are now looking for partners to join us in developing the initiative. These are likely to be teams already working across health and care services and who have established relationships with local decision makers and other local stakeholders. And ultimately we want to work with teams that are passionate about making a tangible impact on our ability to deliver the care that patients need.’
Each partner in the Networked Data Lab will receive an initial investment of up to £400,000 over two years to use rich linked datasets to build knowledge. This knowledge will help generate key insights to deepen understanding of the factors affecting people’s health.
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