Roadmap for “better adult social care data” from DHSC highlights planned actions for 2024 – 2028

The Department of Health and Social Care has published guidance and a roadmap for better adult social care data, focusing on increasing the quantity and quality of available care data by “joining up health and social care records and harnessing digital technologies”.

In the opening chapter, DHSC highlights key principles to take into account when delivering digital and data ambitions, with focus on streamlined work (collecting data once and re-using it to reduce data burden, and automating data collection as much as possible); accessibility; and transparency.

The roadmap itself begins from early 2024, with the publication of findings from the adult social care workforce employee survey, and covers actions to be taken to 2028. By March 2024, DHSC plans to publish the minimum operational data specification for assured digital social care record systems to implement. By winter of 2024 there are plans to make the data access tool available to the sector; also by 2024, client level data collected from local authorities will replace annual short- and long-term collection. By 2025, submission of CLD will become automated; and by 2028, data collected from care providers will be “streamlined as far as possible”.

Moving on, DHSC shares some of the work that has been undertaken to develop understanding of the current data collection landscape, and demonstrates how data flows through collections from the adult social care sector. It notes that findings from the public consultation on health and social care statistical outputs, launched in December of 2023, will be utilised to develop delivery plans over the next year.

With regards to understanding the data sector’s needs, DHSC presents findings from “extensive engagement” that has been undertaken since February 2023, with sector representatives, key stakeholders, individuals and organisations. Data gaps highlighted by feedback include data on the social care workforce, including recruitment rates, retention rates, capacity, pay and conditions; outcomes and user experiences; demographic data to improve understanding of those who draw on care and allow the exploration of any disparities in their experience; information on unpaid carers and their demographics; and planning forecasting provision, to support a better understanding of “which models of care are most successful” in meeting needs.

Limitations to maximising the value of data are outlined, including the in data sharing, data protection, data standardisation, and integration of services. Five limitations to adult social care data are identified as the limited digitisation of the adult social care sector, with around 50 percent of providers having digital care records, and reporting lack of infrastructure as a key challenge; lack of data availability; duplication of data collected lack of standardisation and harmonisation in how data is collected; and gaps in the data collected. Steps to be taken include the development of a new social care data access solution, which will offer a “single source of truth” that reduces the burden on the sector and improves care experience.

Actions are set out with the aim of improving adult social care data, including developing a national provider level minimum dataset, rolling out client level data collected from local authorities, implementing a social care workforce survey to understand wellbeing among the formal social care workforce, and improving social care data sharing and dissemination via a new social care data access solution. The chapter also outlines how the publication of the final minimum operational data specification in 2024 will provide “a defined information standard which will act as a springboard for delivering further quality, efficiency, and organisational improvements across health and care”.

In addition, the guidance shares details on plans to develop a new digital tool that will allow care providers, local government and central government “better access to social care data”, including access to “existing and new national social care collections, such as client level data”. The new tool will provide secure access to vital adult social care data, offer a single source of truth for the sector to refer to, and reduce the “burdens and costs associated with data processing, analysis and access to insights across the sector”.

Next steps highlighted include working in partnership with stakeholders and people to develop and design the implementation of the measures it sets out, exploring ways to address local challenges such as data sharing and interoperability, and engaging with “a diverse range of voices across the sector” to ensure the right data is being collected to drive change and measure success.

To read the guidance in full, please click here.

In other news on data, the NHS England Board’s December meeting covered operational and financial performance, an update on the Federated Data Platform, and the role of tech in the delivery of the primary care access recovery plan.

From Newcastle, research leaders at Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust are using a digital dashboard to analyse data on research activity, which is helping to “inform and embolden” their strategic thinking and planning.