Better, Broader, Safer: Review recognises AphA’s role in developing a professional NHS analyst community
At AphA, we’re delighted to have been included in Professor Ben Goldacre’s review, along with a small number of other collaborative efforts, into how the efficient and safe use of health data for research and analysis can benefit patients and the healthcare sector.
The Better, Broader, Safer review was commissioned by the Department for Health and Social Care in 2021 to look at how we can improve safety and security in the use of health data for research and analysis. The report, published this April, makes 185 recommendations and is primarily aimed at decision makers in the NHS and government, research funders and anyone else who uses data for service planning, public health management and medical research.
As a grass roots membership organisation of analysts working in health and care, we welcome the review and are encouraged by both its strategic ambition and practical vision. The whole review is extremely interesting and well-worth reading in full, but Chapter 1: Modernising NHS Service Analytics is probably the most closely linked to what we as AphA are working on.
The report recognises that while “good data analysis is at the heart of NHS work to improve the quality, safety, and efficiency of services…data alone does not produce these insights…Raw data must be managed, curated, processed, analysed, presented, and interpreted before it can generate action”. Many of the areas highlighted as being in need of development reflect the activities we are actively working on at AphA and are things we would very much want to see develop further and faster.
Of course, a key focus for AphA is on professionalising the role of healthcare analysts and developing clear career paths and we were really pleased to see this called out in the report. Professor Goldacre recognises that the NHS analyst community’s “wide range of highly skilled individuals, and numerous outstanding and impressive pockets of world-class excellence…has become dispersed and isolated over the preceding decades, and now lacks a supportive professionalised structure” unlike other government analyst professions.
Our members come from a wide range of different settings within the sector, some working in large teams, some in smaller teams and some more or less on their own. We recognise that, while many are fortunate to be part of supportive working environments, where the power of data and analytics is recognised and their contribution is valued and supported, others find their full capability isn’t seen or well-utilised.
This clearly links and expands on the work we have recently done to build a national competency framework for data professionals and, of course, the route to professional registration we have created linked to FED-IP (the Federation for Informatics Professions). We are also very keen to support moving the recognition of the role to a scientific category and have been lobbying through national bodies on this for some time.
We were really pleased to be recognised in the report as a professional body and for the clear impact this will have on raising the profile of AphA and our work, but we were also heartened to see a recognition for the challenging environment in which we and other collaborative efforts across the UK are operating. The report highlights the “phenomenal outputs” that groups like AphA and the NHS-R community have achieved on modest resources but recognises that we do not have “the scale, voice, access and infrastructure of the substantive structures in other professions”.
It’s a very fair statement and it highlights the pressing need for more resources and direct support for voluntary organisations, as we work to share expertise and support the development of the analyst community.
In many ways, we are hopeful that this report and the regard it gives to the value of the profession will give real impetus to the work AphA is doing and help us accelerate progress, grow our membership and our influence. Moving forward, it’s vital that multiple different groups are involved in taking forward the recommendations from this review, for example in supporting the development of community building and CPD opportunities for NHS analysts. We are excited to play our part and look forward to working in collaboration with partners in the sector to better understand and define the ways in which AphA can contribute and drive forward change.
AphA Chief Executive Officer
On behalf of the Association of Professional Healthcare Analysts (AphA)