• Analysis has a crucial role to play in shaping care for individual patients as well as across organisations and health systems. It also has a role in helping to improve quality and safety by identifying areas for improvement and monitoring service delivery. 
  • There is a widely acknowledged problem that health services often cannot access the right level of skilled analysts. This can lead to decisions being made on based on limited or inappropriate evidence.
  • In this paper, Martin Bardsley explores issues around both supply and demand that need to be addressed to ensure good quality analysis is able to improve care.

Download Understanding analytical capability in health care.

Key points

  • The ability to use information is an essential element in any health care system.
  • Analysis is critical to a range of issues facing the health service in the UK. These might include:
    • the implementation and evaluation of new models of care in England
    • planning across organisational boundaries
    • implementing and tracking initiatives to assure and improve the quality of care.
  • A skilled workforce that is able to manipulate, analyse and interpret data is essential for a modern health care system. However, there is a widely acknowledged problem that health services often cannot access the right level of skilled analysts. While this is partly a question of the number of analysts, it is also a problem that the health service is not making best use of the analysts it does have.
  • There are key issues around both supply and demand that need to be addressed. Supply is about providing the means for health care organisations to recruit, retain and develop analysts and provide them with the tools to do the job. Managing demand will involve raising awareness among senior managers of the importance and potential of good quality analysis.
  • There are a number of groups and initiatives that can support improvements in the analytical workforce, including education and training, professional development and networking.
  • There are also some key issues that are more challenging, and subject to the wider change agenda. These include:
    • supporting training and development opportunities that are linked to the needs of the service
    • helping analysts work in larger teams that span across organisations
    • providing room for innovation, development and testing of new analytical applications
    • creating new relationships with the experts to improve the quality of support and evidence 
    • stimulating the demand for good quality analysis among NHS leaders.