NHS Digital commits £1.5m to help data sharing between health and social care

Funding to be made available in three streams, addressing current and potential uses of digital technology

NHS Digital is putting over £1.5m in funding into a programme to help the health and social-care sectors use digital technologies to better share data with one another.

A slice of the money can be applied for by local authorities, organisations providing residential and domiciliary adult social care, and academic bodies that work with the healthcare sector. The funding will be handed out across three work streams.

The first of these will invest £1.1m in “demonstrator areas”, in which digital services and platforms are being used to move information between clinicians and adult social care providers in a way which improves the delivery of care. This funding stream will focus on initiatives using existing digital tools, such as the NHSmail secure email platform, and the online eDischarge summaries sent to GPs after a patient leaves hospital.

The second tranche of funding is available for projects designed to explore what information is currently “flowing from adult social care into health systems, and what more might be needed to improve joined-up care”. Information being passed from social care workers onto clinicians might include a person’s frailty index rating, or any problems with hydration. A total of £233,000 will be handed out via this stream.

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The final package of £250,000 will be given to local councils and research organisations to undertake explorations of how predictive analytics could help anticipate and manage social-care needs. These investigations will also look at the any potential ethical or privacy challenges incumbent in using analytics in this way.

James Palmer, programme lead for the social care programme at NHS Digital, said: “Our engagement with the adult social care sector has demonstrated that when health care settings share existing, appropriate clinical information with those delivering care in residential and home settings, it can result in better support for people accessing services.”

Lyn Romeo, chief social worker for adults at the Department for Health and Social Care, said: “Timely access to accurate information is essential to supporting the efficient co-ordination of person-centred care. This includes, for example, what medication people are taking, what allergies people might suffer from and any personal preferences people have in how they are looked after.

She added: “This can all be delivered so much more quickly and accurately by the digital transfer of records through secure channels, or by more intelligent use of data, whilst maintaining privacy, respecting confidentiality and upholding people’s rights. I would urge eligible organisations across the country to step forward and be part of helping to bridge the current information gap between health care and social care settings.”

Applications for funding are open until 10am on Monday 2 July. 

Sam Trendall

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