At each stage of the pandemic, our understanding of the virus and how to respond to it was driven by data. Now we must continue to use data better to continue to save lives.
The whole response to the pandemic has been data-driven. It was data that helped identify those most vulnerable to COVID-19 so we could recommend shielding. The creation of effective vaccines, the discovery that dexamethasone was an effective therapy, the efficient distribution of PPE – all were driven by data. The NHS COVID-19 Data Store helped us to track the spread and put ventilators and oxygen where it was needed so that no hospital ran out.
Now we need to build on that, so that we can continue to use data safely to save more lives. We know this will only work if we keep the trust of patients and ensure they have access to their own data.
The challenge now is to make sure that we do not just go back to where we were before, but rather build on the steps forward we have taken.
Improving patient care
The NHS made it easier and faster for clinicians to access relevant information about the people they were caring for. We simplified the guidance on accessing patient data, so staff knew that if they were sensible and careful, they could use patient data with confidence.
Changing our relationship with health data
Health data has driven the biggest decisions on lockdowns and travel. We are now more aware of health data and its power. Since we launched the NHS CovidPass, 10 million more people have signed up to the NHS App. Millions have been directly contributing their own data to studies, like the brilliant Zoe App of King’s College.
This has all happened because we were facing the biggest public health emergency in the NHS’s history. The challenge now is to make sure that we do not just go back to where we were before, but rather build on the steps forward we have taken.
Data is helping save lives
NHSX’s new data strategy ‘Data Saves Lives: Reshaping Health and Social Care with Data’ is the product of wisdom and insight from across health and care, from patients and researchers. Hundreds of people and organisations have provided valuable feedback on the draft, NHSX will be publishing the final version in the coming months.
The vision is clear. Getting there will not be easy and will need us to show the benefits to patients and the NHS, to prove that patients are right to put their trust in us to preserve their privacy. But the story of the last 18 months shows what is possible, why it matters and why we need to succeed.