[UK / Implementations] - The long-delayed NHS Information Strategy was launched today as a “framework and route map” for the way information should be collected and used in the NHS and social care. The power of information: Putting all of us in control of the health and care information we need, as the title neatly shows, puts the emphasis on the efficient collection and use of information electronically for the needs of patients, carers, healthcare professionals, commissioners and service providers. Its “main ambitions” are to use information to drive integrated care across the entire health and social care sector, both within and between organisations.
The Strategy builds on Liberating the NHS: An Information Revolution, in which the Government committed to connecting existing and locally chosen systems, and to enabling a range of organisations to offer service information to a variety of audiences, and the report of the NHS Future Forum. The emphasis is on conformation to information standards set nationally and which will be systematically adopted and phased over ten years.
Access to records and information
The headline feature is the provision of online access to GP medical records and test results by 2015, followed by other health and care records “as more care providers make these available” and the ability to share the information with other carers. The Strategy also specifies that information and IT specialists have to make online access to records for patients of equal importance as professional access to electronic records.
Access to information on healthcare, public health and care and support will be rationalised to just three services:
- 999 as the telephone service for emergencies;
- 111 as the telephone service for health and care advice and services; and
- one online portal replacing the services provided by NHS Choices, NHS Direct online, NHS 111 online and Healthspace.
The NHS Commissioning Board will have responsibility for informatics standards and securing national infrastructure, such as the NHS Spine. The Strategy sets April 2013 as the date for the Department of Health and the NHS Commissioning Board to agree to the process for setting consistent information standards across healthcare, public health and social care, and to the 2013-2018 route map for implementation and enforcement. The Care Quality Commission will also have a role in influencing the uptake of nationally mandated standards, including the consistent use of the NHS number as the unique patient identifier.
The Health and Social Care Information Centre will take on a new role from April 2013 as the national focal point and key resource for health and care information. It has already launched a new portal for clinical service and outcomes data, to make the data easily available for use by others to add value and publish in innovative ways.
Promoting the value of informatics
The Strategy recognises the need for institutional strengthening of informatics, in education and training of healthcare professionals, development of career pathways and accreditation for informatics professionals, and confirmation at board level of the importance of clinical and professional leadership in informatics.
Capital funds for IT
As national IT contracts (under NPfIT) wind down, funding will increasingly become local, so the Department of Health is developing a capital fund for informatics delivery to cover 2013/14 and 2014/15, which will be finalised in summer/autumn 2012. In addition, NHS trusts that have not been able to secure patient administration systems from the National Programme will have access to capital funds “in the usual way for investment in IT” from the Department of Health.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said, “Our health and care reforms are about making life easier for people. If people are going to be able to choose, with their doctor, which hospital will provide them with the best care they will need all the latest information. Our plans will ensure that they get this from their doctors as well as online from websites and cutting edge apps. By pushing ahead with our information revolution we will ensure that every NHS patient will be able to say that ′no decision about me was made without me′. It′s time to make patient-power a reality and take the hassle out of using the health service.”
Sir David Nicholson, Chief Executive of the NHS Commissioning Board, said, "Information is critical to the transformation of the NHS. To get the best outcomes for our patients we must enable them to make informed decisions about their care and wellbeing, be that choice of service or how to best manage their own health. This commitment to the Information Strategy and the adoption of new technologies and ways of working are the first steps in a genuine cultural shift in the NHS that will enable the service to work at its most efficient and give patients real power and choice." [Photo: Department of Health UK]
1. The NHS information strategy, The power of information: Putting all of us in control of the health and care information we need along with the easy read version, impact assessment and equality analysis are available here.
2. The information strategy has also been published as an online website giving more user-friendly examples of the use of information.
3. The Health and Social Care Information Centre primary care data portal.