Season’s greetings and reflection from AphA Chief Executive Officer and President
As the end of the year draws closer, it is an appropriate time to reflect on what has been a momentous year for healthcare analysts and look ahead to what AphA’s focus will be in 2023.
We’re all aware the healthcare system is going through tremendous changes – service delivery is restructuring and financial scrutiny is intensifying. With less money available, people are seeking more insight from healthcare analysts – we have a big part to play and a lot has been said about the importance of our role. Following on from Amanda Pritchard, CEO of NHS England, saying “a good analyst can save more lives than a good anaesthetist” people are increasingly recognising the impact of data analysis.
The Goldacre Report
The increased recognition of the importance of analysts in healthcare was evident in April when we were delighted to have AphA recognised as a professional body in Professor Ben Goldacre’s Better, Broader, Safer review. Commissioned by the Department of Health and Social care, the review looked at how the efficient and safe use of health data for research and analysis can benefit patients and the healthcare sector. It referenced the “phenomenal outputs” that groups like AphA and the NHS-R community have achieved on modest resources but recognised that we do not have “the scale, voice, access and infrastructure of the substantive structures in other professions.”
This gap between our ambitions and where we are was one of the areas highlighted in the review as needing development and is something we are actively working on at AphA. You can read AphA President Andi Orlowski’s opinion piece on how to close the Goldacre data analysis gap on the HSJ website.
While the Government are making all the right noises about the importance of our role, there has been little action to back it up as the results of our CPD survey showed in November. Sent to analysts across our membership, we received a range of responses and feedback. The most concerning finding was, at a time when national policy is calling for a major expansion of NHS analytical activity, junior NHS analysts have little access to Continuing Professional Development (CPD).
Our survey results showed that 83% of newer Band 5 analysts had not received funded CPD and only 21% worked for an NHS organisation that was supportive of CPD. Even established and committed analysts are mostly undertaking development in their own time, at their own expense and on their own initiative. The results painted a picture of an inconsistent and unequal offering for all levels of staff and the findings undermine everything the NHS is saying about the future role of analysts.
Without a professional approach to developing the skilled data specialists Government policy relies on, the gap mentioned between ambition and delivery will not close. This is where AphA, as an independent professional body, has a role to play and next year we will increase our engagement with various stakeholders and lobby for change.
We want clear commitment from all NHS organisations to provide financial support and dedicated training time for their analytical workforce. Andi put out a call for the government to do just this in his article for the HSJ, ‘
AphA is also focussed on professionalising the role of healthcare analysts and developing clear career paths. We were really pleased to see this called out in the Goldacre report as professional registration remains high on the priorities for AphA in 2023.
We have always been proud to offer our members the opportunity to become professionally registered analysts. and a show of commitment to your career and development.
We will award digital credentials when you become a registered practitioner which you can share across your social profiles to demonstrate your expertise and gain professional recognition. The digital badges contain metadata which give a full overview of the criteria that you have evidenced in order to be awarded registered status. This year we have simplified the process and in early 2023, we will launch an online hub making it even easier for you to apply.
There are currently 52 registered professionals on the register including three leading practitioners from AphA (Rony Arafin, Andi Orlowski and Emma Wright). We went through the process to show our engagement and commitment to professional registration and to be able to offer a kitemark for our members to look up to.
In July, Rony took part in the Fika podcast series to share his insights on the importance of professional registration. It’s available to download and listen to on various platforms.
The Goldacre report also recognised 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.
This clearly links to the work we have recently done to build a national competency framework for data professionals to support our goal of professionalisation for analysts. We worked with NHS England to deliver both the alpha and discovery stage of the National Analyst Competency Framework – a major milestone as data analytics has never before had a structed competency framework in place.
NHS England are now progressing the Beta stage, reaching out to 170 data and analytics professionals across 44 organisations to evaluate the framework on the ground and to share how it works for them.
Our involvement in this evolving and agile project is currently in an advisory capacity but we are looking at different ways we can contribute more to the competency framework and drive it forward.
Expanding and promoting AphA
We have also worked hard on increasing AphA’s visibility and reputation by representing our members at significant national events throughout the year. These include a Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) roundtable event, the Digital Health Rewired conference, INSIGHT 2022 Festival, and the NHS-R Community Conference event. Wherever there is a data and analytics event, AphA aims to have a presence.
We are always looking to increase our membership to represent more health and care analysts and 2023 will be no exception. Over 200 new members joined AphA in 2022, which is excellent, and we now have over 800 members in 11 branches across the UK. However, the AnalystX Observatory State of the Nation 2022 work by NHS England found 13,000 analysts in the health and care sector so there is definitely the opportunity to expand next year.
Our branches also increased this year and we have established a new North East branch, a region, where many healthcare analysts will now benefit from networking and relationship building opportunities, share best practice and have a dedicated space for learning and development.
We also appointed 7 new board members:
- Robert Robson – Director of Finance
- Ruth Holland – Director of Regions
- Kate Thomas – Company Secretary
- Neil Morgan – Director of Policy
- Mark Foy – Director of Programmes
- Non-Executive Directors: John O’Connell and Vaish Khullar
You can find out more about their roles and their background, on the AphA website.
We’re immensely proud of all that we’ve achieved this year – helping analysts step out of the shadows in healthcare. But if we are to really achieve the impact which we know analysts can make in helping to improve decision making and resource usage then we need to accelerate our activities in the year to come.
We’re going to increase our focus on how we can support professional development, making it clear what we mean by professionalisation and why it matters.
We will build on our reputation and influence, accelerate progress and extend our community of members, connecting people who are working in similar areas so they can share and learn from each other.
We share the great work that we do in our monthly magazine, the only data and analytics magazine that is available for Health and Care Analysts, and via the AphA Hub on our website and we’re going to find even more platforms and opportunities to do so in 2023.
Thank you for all your hard work. We wish you all the best for this festive season and look forward to seeing you all in the New Year when we can expect even more success for AphA.
Rony Arafin (AphA Chief Executive Officer) and Andi Orlowski (AphA President)