Summary Report on Competency Frameworks For Health Service Analysts

Posted : May 12, 2021 -

Read Full Report Here


Authors: Paul Stroner, Prof. Martin Pitt, Katie Kelsey, Donna Hanson, Rony Arafin


There is a widely held belief by many working in analytical functions across the health and care system that there are multiple instances of documents and/or online materials which attempt to describe variously the skills and behaviours required of those in analytical roles. Despite the relative abundance of potential materials, there is no systematic adoption of a single approach.

In certain sectors of the health system, most notably those in Civil Service roles, there is a requirement to align with competency frameworks, and it is seen to be beneficial to the individual to do so.

In other areas, most notably the wider NHS, this requirement is less well developed, and there is a lack of direction for analysts to know which framework they should align to.

It is clear that the benefits of adopting a common framework for analytical disciplines are manifold for all parts of the system, including patients, employers and individual analysts.

Scope and aims

The aims of the discovery phase of this work are to:

  • Look in depth at what is currently available
  • Use existing resources to augment, support and collaborate on activities for greater transparency and consistency rather than duplicating effort
  • Make proposals for further development and alignment to existing frameworks beyond initial discovery

The discovery work attempts to provide a view of what currently exists and how the analytical community uses, or does not use, any materials to support the following areas:

  • Recruitment and retention
  • Career progression decisions
  • Skills audit
  • Training needs assessment
  • Annual appraisal

Furthermore, we have attempted to provide some understanding of why organisations may not be utilising what currently exists, and what would be required for widespread adoption of a framework to support the analytical community.

For the purpose of this work we have not restricted discussions or consideration of materials or approaches to those resources explicitly labelled as competency frameworks; to have done so would have been overly restrictive and constrained the discovery work to a very limited set of materials. Whilst there is a need to be as inclusive as possible in the scope of the work, at this stage we have not undertaken any discovery work with the social care system, mainly due to time constraints, and the report is therefore primarily focused on the views of those working across the NHS, including public health.

It is not within the scope of this discovery work to produce a proposed competency framework for future use.


The work undertaken as discovery falls into three distinct sections:

  • Literature search and desktop review
  • Semi-structured interview with selected analytical leaders
  • Online survey of the analytical community



This summarises the findings of the project to conduct initial research (discovery) regarding the current, and potential for future, use of analytical competency frameworks across the
health and care system.

The objectives of the project are to:

    • Look in depth at what is currently available
    • Use existing resources to augment, support and collaborate on activities for greater

transparency and consistency rather than duplicating effort

  • Make proposals for further development and alignment to existing frameworks beyond initial discovery


The project was undertaken in three phases:

  • Literature search and desktop review
  • Semi-structured interview with selected analytical leaders (32 individuals)/li>
  • Online survey of the analytical community (207 respondents)/li>


What is a competency framework?

For the purposes of this project, we define ‘competency/skills frameworks’ as unified structures which can be applied to analysts across the health and care sectors in the UK.

Commonly these can be used for a variety of functions, most notably for recruitment and promotional purposes as well as managing professional development. Where local or organisation-specific processes or tools have been developed, we are keen to know how these are applied, but distinguish them from the more generic frameworks.


Main findings

Desktop review

  • For the desktop review phase a total of 28 competency frameworks were examined in detail. 18 were dismissed because they did not provide any material to describe or develop professional analysts
  • The remaining 10 frameworks, all containing significant detail about analytical job roles and career progression, originated from within the NHS, AphA or the UK Government/Civil Service and have the potential to contribute to a framework which encompasses all analytical roles within the NHS/li>
  • There is no uniformly recognised competency framework for healthcare analysts in the UK and there are no international examples which can be pressed into service/li>
  • Within the UK, however, the Government Analytical Framework does provide a helpful model to standardise job roles, define technical and generic skills and skill attainment levels, and map out career pathways/li>

Semi-structured interviews

  • There is a good deal of enthusiasm and support for the development of the framework. It is felt that it would help define the health and care analyst profession and potentially encourage more young people to consider healthcare analysis as a career choice
  • The framework should be simple, learn from other frameworks, describe the possible career journeys, and map to the professional standards
  • It will help to define and raise awareness of the profession. It must be recognisable to health and care analysts, so that it will be adopted by the majority
  • Ideally it would be possible to map the framework across between organisations and possibly to other parts of government
  • The competencies should link to training opportunities
  • There are reservations, however; some people are concerned that having a framework might be over-prescriptive. Too much structure risks losing the fluidity and flexibility of being able to keep up with new developments
  • Significant barriers to adoption and usage exist within both the analytical workforce and the wider health and care system


  • Awareness and use of current competency frameworks for health and care analysts in the UK is very low
  • Coupled with this is a clear lack of application, with very few participants demonstrating widespread adoption or use of existing frameworks
  • Notwithstanding this lack of awareness, there is a very clear appreciation of the potential value and importance that competency frameworks could play if effectively designed and, crucially, well implemented
  • One key benefit identified was the potential value of competency frameworks in supporting the transfer of roles, both within health and care and for those joining from another application area
  • Many respondents pointed to the lack of a unified accepted and endorsed framework that was standardised across the profession, and saw this as a key barrier to adoption
  • Many pointed to the wide diversity of organisational needs, analytical roles, and skill levels and requirements across the health and care sector as a major challenge in developing a unified approach to assessment
  • A rich set of input was collected from respondents, addressing perceived areas for improvement in current skills and competency frameworks as well as identifying many current deficiencies and barriers to implementation
  • There was a clear preference for the oversight, maintenance and management of a national framework to be conducted by an independent professional body



There exists a wide range of materials which can be categorised under the broad heading of ‘competency frameworks’ which can potentially be used by the analytical workforce in health
and care.

The use of these materials at present is patchy and ad hoc, for many reasons, and none of the existing competency frameworks is recognised as a national or industry standard.

There is a high level of enthusiasm amongst both the analytical leadership and the grass roots analysts to address this problem. However, there is a recognition that significant barriers exist which will need to be addressed, within both the analytical workforce and the wider health and care system.

There is a need to engender a cultural change to provide the right environment for a competency framework to be accepted and adopted.

There are enough materials already produced which, in combination, could potentially form the core of a standardised competency framework, and this could be addressed in a reasonably short time frame.

The production, adoption, maintenance and use of a competency framework is a necessary undertaking and is a keystone in building a more effective analytical workforce to meet the needs of a 21st-century health and care system. As a minimum, it would be a big step in the right direction towards improving the recruitment, retention and development of health and care analysts. This should be seen as a component part of a wider agenda – namely the professionalisation of health and care analytics – and not an endeavour to be undertaken in isolation.


Consideration should be given to the following:

  • Multi-agency steering group to be established to oversee the transition of health and care analytics from its current state to acceptance as a professional discipline
  • Current role of Chief Data and Analytics Officer at NHSE/I to be designated as Head of Profession for Analytics to provide focus and set direction of travel for analytical workforce across the NHS
  • Further work to be commissioned to establish a standardised framework for uniform adoption across the health and care system, drawing on the existing materials identified during the discovery work
  • Any such framework should be rounded and include the range of ‘softer’ skills which are often disregarded. There should be a clear alignment with training provision
  • The development of the framework should be undertaken in collaboration with a range of organisations from across the country, acting as pilot sites to test usage and uptake
  • In parallel with any work to produce a standardised competency framework, a national communications strategy should be worked up to prepare for roll-out