To share or not to share? How local health systems in England can accelerate cross-sectoral data linkage to improve planning and decision-making.
A collaboration between researchers from Imperial College London and Kent County Council reveals challenges and barriers in sharing data for cross-sectoral linkage related to data infrastructure, data protection rules and lack of regular patient and public engagement.
A new article, ‘Advancing the UK health inequalities agenda: Importance of legislation and organisational data sharing’ published in the International Journal of Population Data Science (IJPDS), describes how Integrated Care Systems (ICS) would benefit from cross-sectoral data linkage research and advanced analytics to help improve population health management. The study outlines some of the health-related, person-level administrative datasets, such as the frontline ‘health determinant’ services, and information on protected characteristics, like ethnicity and inclusive health groups.
The authors go on to propose potential solutions, such as promoting the use of common person identifiers in non-NHS organisations for data linkage, suggest changes to national legislation, and emphasise the importance of educating and promoting patients and the public.
Lead author Dr Abraham George explains: “Population health is not just determined by access to health care. National and international research on the relevance of ‘wider health determinants’ on population health has increased over the years. These may include individual information on educational attainment, quality of housing, type of employment, vulnerable groups and so on. This has implications for governments in different countries in facilitating cross-sectoral data linkage.”
In England, linking routine administrative datasets collected outside the NHS has enormous benefits, ranging from pure research to population health management, which is now a national programme NHS organisations are required to deliver. This has become even more relevant with the introduction of ICS, which are local partnerships between NHS, local authorities, voluntary and community sectors and other agencies. ICS aim to improve population health and address health inequalities in access, experience and outcomes through better health and social care service planning and delivery.
ICS depend heavily on the partnership between respective intelligence teams across NHS and Local Authority Public Health, who in turn depend heavily on access to person-level linked data from local organisations for their population footprint. However, few examples exist of routine cross-sectoral data linkage across ICS. Much of the progress has so far been linking data between NHS organisations and council social care services, usually through their shared care record programmes. It is by sharing cross-sectoral data effectively that local English health systems can improve planning and decision-making.
Dr. Abraham P. George, Consultant Public Health, Educational Supervisor & Lead for Research, Kent County Council, England, UK
George, A., Powell, R. and Rao, M. (2023) “Implementing the English health inequalities agenda: addressing challenges to person-level, cross-sectoral data linkage, access and routine use for local authority public health”, International Journal of Population Data Science, 8(4). Available at: https://ijpds.org/article/view/2166 (Accessed: 7 February 2024).