Saturday, January 06, 2007

Why doesn't the NHS profit from its' own data?

To continue with the theme of starting a new year with developing new ideas, this proposal includes:

The NHS should profit from data it has already collected.

Within the NHS, it is well known that there is a divide in the service between medical staff working with patients, and managerial staff working with finances; a sort of ‘them and us’ mentality. It is sometimes difficult for medical staff to see the good results produced by managers, all too often focusing on frequent messages about cuts and targets. Yet indisputably, management is imperative to allow the medical profession to continue the caring role. Is there a way to encourage NHS management to directly aid the NHS budget?

Currently, NHS management collect data - a high value commodity. Increasingly, there is awareness in partnerships between public and private health care providers. Prior to private companies offering a service, they research supply, cost and demand figures. This data is often collected by telephone surveys, with vast quantities of time spent talking to ward staff, taking them away from their primary role of patient care to discuss bed availability. Yet, every good manager already collects this supply and demand data, very accurately, within their hospital. For example, the data may include bed numbers for each specialty and sub-specialty, giving supply data, and then the occupancy of these beds, showing demand data. Another example would be how much it costs to run these beds. My proposal would be to ask mangers to publish this valuable data on a monthly basis, offering the following advantages:

1) Publication of the data already collected by managers would allow interested parties (often private health companies) to buy this data, and in turn provide the NHS with a revenue source.

2) Publication would aid the integration between managers and health care workers, as the importance of the data collated by managers would become evident.

3) Managers and health care workers would be encouraged to work together, in turn, improving the accuracy of the data collected.

4) Publication of data would increase the accountability of managers and increase motivation to illustrate good value for money.

5) Publication would provide valuable NHS data for strategic planning.

The NHS should not be encouraged to be secretive about information, however, why not allow the NHS to collect revenue from the vast quantity of data it has already collected.? Indeed, the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (Section (19) and other provisions) deals with the possibility of charging fees for information intended for publication.

In conclusion, NHS data knowledge could provide a further useful funding source.


Peter Smallbone said...

Information in itself is never dangerous and the NHS shouldn't be afraid of publishing it. Maybe we should follow the example of the US, where any work of the federal government or its organs automatically becomes public domain.

Peter Smallbone said...

Maybe the government's thinking the same thing!


Dr Michelle Tempest said...

thanks Pete - if they are, lets hope they use any revenue for patient care.