NHS "risks losing revenue without a data strategy"
The health service risks losing out on huge potential revenue in the future if it does not put in place a strategy to capitalise on the increasing value of the medical data it holds, according to a new report.
With some estimating the potential monetary value of NHS data to be around £10 billion a year, the report by the Reform think tank calls on the Department of Health & Social Care to ensure its full potential is harnessed for the public benefit.
It says that as new technology develops and collaboration with private technology companies increases, there is an urgent need for the NHS and the private sector to work in partnership in the best interest of patients.
To ensure this, it calls for the creation of an independent body of legal and business experts to oversee deals and advise NHS services, including hospitals and GP practices, to ensure best outcomes and to tackle what it describes as "a messy patchwork' of different relationships.
Data about patients, staff schedules and medical procedures is collected everyday within the NHS. This data generates huge benefits as it is directly used to inform the decisions doctors and nurses make about the care a person should receive. Data can also be used by companies in the life sciences industry to develop products and services that improve the quality and efficiency of care.
The report includes the first ever catalogue and assessment of the types of partnerships that currently exist between the NHS and private sector companies using data held by the health service, as well as the types of partnership that could be explored in the future.
Of the different models looked at, Sensyne Health's partnership with several NHS Trusts was considered to currently be the best example of how the NHS and businesses can work together, at a local level, and both financially benefit from the relationship.
However, it was also highlighted that, at a national level, this partnership might lead to some trusts becoming richer, while others lose out, exacerbating variations in the quality of service.
Eleonora Harwich, director of research at Reform, said: "So far the NHS has shied away from this uncomfortable conversation about partnerships with the private sector when data is involved. We need to have it to make sure that everyone benefits."