Public Release:  Improving patient care by better use of NHS data is focus of new project at Imperial

Imperial College London

Bringing data from GPs and hospitals together to improve healthcare is the focus of a new £2million project by researchers from Imperial College London in conjunction with the Peter Sowerby Foundation.

There is a wealth of data in the NHS but it is often held in separate, isolated, pockets at hospitals and in GP surgeries. It is currently not possible, for example, to know how groups of patients with breathing problems are being treated across primary care, secondary care and community services, hindering the drive to provide better, more coordinated care for patients.

The Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial has received funding for five years to establish the Peter Sowerby Forum for Primary Care. It will carry out research to improve the links between GP and hospital data and to use the information available to demonstrate how treatment and care can be improved. Sharing information could also lead to a clearer picture of health trends, which could make the NHS more responsive.

Sir Thomas Hughes-Hallett, Executive Chair of the Institute for Global Health Innovation at Imperial, said: "At first patients may not notice any changes directly. However over time, this approach could revolutionise the way NHS data is provided and interpreted, improving the quality of care that patients receive. By bringing together information researchers will also get fresh insights into diseases, which could help them identify ways of predicting those patients most at risk and the best way of providing care."

Sir Keith O'Nions, President & Rector of Imperial College London, said: "The promise of this project is that it could help the NHS to get a clearer picture about trends in healthcare, so that ultimately, better treatments can be delivered more responsively to patient groups. Imperial has a strong track record when it comes to innovation in healthcare. Thanks to the support of the Peter Sowerby Charitable Foundation, a leading Imperial innovator, IGHI can push on with their work in improving healthcare for people in the UK."

As part of the Forum, researchers will investigate how they can improve the ways data can be brought together. This could lead to new methods of analysing symptoms, administering treatments and understanding progressive diseases, such as diabetes, to see where improvements can be made.

The Forum's work will build on existing expertise in the analysis and linking of large-scale health data, such as the National Reporting and Learning System and primary care with Hospital Episode Statistics, and the progress made in other locations and nationally.

The first step for the forum is to devise a strategy to improve the way data can be brought together while ensuring that patient confidentiality is strictly maintained at all times. New priorities for research will also be identified. The forum's report and recommendations are expected to be published in May 2014. The grant from the Peter Sowerby Charitable Foundation will then enable these to be followed up nationally and also locally through the recently established Academic Health Science Network in north-west London that comprises 13 healthcare providers representing all primary and secondary care in north-west London.

David Aspinall, Chair of Trustees for the Peter Sowerby Foundation, said:

"We are delighted today to be announcing the first major grants for the Peter Sowerby Charitable Foundation. These targeted grants are strongly based on the passions of Dr Sowerby and his late wife Ann in three key areas: medical research and healthcare provision, education, and community and environment. Throughout his career, Dr Sowerby has spearheaded new innovations in the use of patient data, and this flagship grant to Imperial College looks to develop this interest further by exploring how the use of data can beneficially impact ongoing research and patient care."

Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt MP, added:

"I greatly welcome this initiative from the Peter Sowerby Charitable Foundation and the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College to work out how linking primary and secondary care data can improve the care patients receive. The Government and the NHS are committed to providing patients with a transferable medical record and this project is a great example of how philanthropy and a leading academic institution can work together, to bring an authoritative independent view on an important issue that can bring huge benefits to patients throughout the NHS."

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