Authored article

Making health data work better

Professor John Newton, National Information Board (NIB) Interim Chair, talks about NIB's annual recommendations to the Health Secretary.

Professor John Newton, National Information Board Interim Chair

We talk a lot about data: where to find it, how robust it is, and how much better it could be. Sometimes, though, in our quest for perfection we can overlook the potential of the data we already have.

The Secretary of State for Health is determined to make our existing data work harder for us. His vision of intelligent transparency is about a health and care system which uses data to understand not just how well organisations are doing, but to find out who is doing better so that we can learn from them.

The Secretary of State has asked the National Information Board (NIB) to write to him every year with recommendations for how we make this happen. He in turn is committed to reply. And in the spirit of transparency these are public letters, copied to the Health Select Committee.

We have just had the first annual exchange of letters. You will see our commitment to the principles of intelligent transparency and our appetite to exploit non-sensitive routine data more fully, as well as the Secretary of State’s appreciation of how much the NIB’s members are already doing in this area.

NIB and the Secretary of State are committed to using existing published data to compare services and organisations. Clear, open comparison is an essential part of creating the climate where intelligent transparency can become a reality. This is what the My NHS website has been set up to do, bringing together information from a range of data sources and displaying it clearly so that anyone can compare services and organisations. The site’s coverage and functionality continues to grow and expand, with the next major refresh due this summer.

However, My NHS is not the only way we can achieve transparency and the Secretary of State was encouraged to see the range of other initiatives already in place from arm’s length bodies.

Published 1 July 2016