CAO Network response to 2024/25 NHS priorities and operational planning guidance

Posted : April 16, 2024 -

The CAO Network welcomes the spring budget promise of £3.4 billion for investment in data and digital.  This has also been re-enforced in the recently released 2024/25 planning guidance.

However, that sadly is the first and only mention of data throughout the guidance.  There is a perception that if we strive in the advancement of digital and tech, this will cover data and analytics.  However there is a clear distinction between digital and data.  They are of course intrinsically linked, however a new EPR or virtual ward or medical tech does not guarantee the right data is being collected or if it accessible by the analysts.

The NHS holds the richest set of population wide, machine readable health data in the world with 75 years of history for tens of millions of patients.  Data Saves Lives: reshaping health and social care with data, published in June 2022, rightly cited this data mine being at the forefront of the fight against coronavirus.

The planning guidance puts a great emphasis on investment in digital and technology.  Not only are we on the precipice of a digital revolution, we are on the precipice of a data revolution, but in order to win the fight, SMEs in data and analytics, such as those members of the CAO network must be involved in decisions around digital procurement or the investments may not support the analytical requirements. There is a request that architecture aligns with FDP.  Some of the £3.4 billion should be invested architecture and interoperability, but again data and analytical leads need to be involved in these discussions.

There is a request for ongoing investment in social care, and a co-ordinated, ambitious approach to prevention as well as expanding evidence based approaches to population health.  This will require investment in analytics.  We need to move away from reporting what has been and forecasting the usual trends such as winter pressures.  We know this will happen, its not telling us anything new.  We of course need to address measures for admission avoidance, and we are getting better at the tertiary prevention levels of population health by improving on condition management and interventions.

But to truly revolutionise health and care and bring in new ways of working, introducing more cross system and service integration, we need to get smarter with predictive analytics through artificial intelligence and improved data science methods  and putting more focus on prevention.  Such an approach will require dedicated support and investment in not just analytical solutions but the analytical workforce.  This could also solve issues of retention if we show this dedicated group of staff that their skills are recognized and appreciated and worthy of investment so analytics can play its part at an optimum level in the transformation of health and care delivery.

In summary, the CAO network, supported by AphA would like to have documented assurance that data and analytics is recognized as it’s own critical discipline and given the visibility, voice, support and financial investment it needs to enable delivery of the visions and ambitions of the NHS.

Written by

Andi Orlowski, President of AphA and Director at the Health Economics Unit

Jane Johnston, Director of Member Services at AphA

Marc Farr, Chair of CAO Network and CAO at Kent and Medway ICB and East Kent Hospitals NHSFT