Plans to create a single source of healthcare data in England to enhance patient safety have moved a step closer.

A new report by the Acute Data Alignment Programme (ADAPt) has recommended private providers routinely share information with the NHS.

The programme is a joint initiative between NHS Digital and the Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN) and a public consultation on the proposal is due to take place next year.

Data on admitted patient care and day case*  could be shared to provide a more comprehensive insight into the quality of treatment and care across both the NHS and private healthcare, improving safety for patients.

Data from private providers would be covered by the same security protections and confidentiality measures as NHS data, and the same rules around sharing would apply.

Pilot projects have already been run through the Acute Data Alignment Programme (ADAPt), which showed the benefits of sharing information and demonstrated that private providers can submit data directly to NHS Digital.

Under the changes being recommended, PHIN – which already collects private provider data in England – would continue to share a national dataset of private providers’ admitted patient care information in England with the NHS until at least March 2024. From then, the report recommends that the NHS collects admitted patient care and outpatient data directly from private providers through the same system used to collect NHS data.

The additional information on private providers would mean there was a better picture of healthcare in England for providers, regulators and researchers – ultimately helping to improve care. It would also enable patient pathways to be analysed in greater detail and could be linked to other data already held by NHS Digital, including on NHS activity and mortality.

Organisations with an appropriate legal basis to use elements of the private provider data would be able to apply to access it via NHS Digital’s Data Access Request Service, the same process which currently applies to NHS data.

James Austin, Director of Data Strategy and Policy at NHS Digital, said: 

“NHS Digital has worked closely with PHIN on this important step towards aligning data collection for all acute providers – NHS and private.
“Patient safety is the ultimate driver for this and creating a single source of healthcare data will help provide better insights and lead to improved care and treatment for patients in the NHS and private healthcare.
“Patients can also be assured that the private provider data will be subject to the same stringent controls and protection as the NHS data we collect and hold.”

ADAPt was initiated in 2018 at the request of former Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Jeremy Hunt following the 2017 conviction of breast surgeon Ian Paterson, who was jailed for harming patients in both NHS and private hospitals.

The independent inquiry into Paterson recommended the creation of a single source of information for all activity by consultants, whether it was conducted in the NHS or private sector. The aim is to ensure all data is underpinned by common standards to record and report activity, quality and risk in a consistent way across both sectors.

Dr Jon Fistein, Chief Medical Officer at PHIN, said: 

“Patients and people considering their healthcare choices are at the centre of everything we do: from serving people in helping them making better informed choices, to supporting the NHS and private sector to better understand and improve services through the collection of data.
“We are confident that the ADAPt programme can contribute to those aims.”

The ADAPT report makes several recommendations and the next stages of the programme will be a public consultation, due to take place early in 2023, and engagement with the private sector.

More information is available in the Acute Data Alignment Programme (ADAPt) - Piloting private healthcare data in NHS Digital report.

*Update 13 February 2024: When originally published, this story referred to outpatients rather than day case patients, as this was the term used in the published ADAPt recommendations. However, PHIN does not collect outpatient information for the private sector, so this will not be shared. 

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