You attend a hospital with your disabled daughter. You do this pretty much every day because your daughter has regular seizures and emergencies. Every day, you have to start all over again because the hospital doesn’t know who your daughter is. More paperwork. Then you wait and wait because the staff have to find a hoist to lift your child out of her wheelchair onto a bed. Why couldn’t you have called in advance to tell them she was coming? Hours and hours of waiting.
This is the NHS in the experience of one mother I met recently; everyday indignities and inhumanities and, in her face, the real human cost is clear enough. This isn’t everywhere, or everyday or every patient. But we need a transformation in the quality of customer service in health and care – patients must be respected as people. The NHS belongs to us all.
I have twins, and we get letters from the hospital inviting us to appointments after they have expired, or mixing up the boys and their conditions. Inconvenient for us, but a service that is unintelligent about its patients, carers or clients, that does not always know with accuracy who it is treating, cannot guarantee its safety.
It is this lack of data, insight and information that is our greatest problem – and our greatest opportunity. Transparency in healthcare – development of a safe, open culture of data sharing between clinicians and patients – will be the most important contribution this generation makes to the sustainability of the NHS. It is the most important public policy innovation of our time. The viability of our health service, in an age of financial constraint and demographic challenge, depends on patients taking much more control of their own health and care – a new operating model where, through the seamless sharing of information, the NHS unleashes the power of the people it serves.
For the transformation of customer service, we need a revolution in transparency, and this is why it is one of the core strategic priorities for NHS England. The summer of 2013 is full of landmarks – real initiatives that will put much better data in the hands of clinicians so they can improve their outcomes and give patients new tools and new freedom to make more informed decisions, and be empowered as participants in their own care and wellbeing.
Here are three innovations which are unprecedented:
- This July, clinical outcomes data by individual consultants will be published by ten surgical associations, including cardiac, vascular and orthopaedic surgery.
- In July, every hospital in England will publish friends and family test data, providing a new insight into the quality of customer satisfaction with local services.
- In the late summer, the first anonymised data that links the patient pathway between primary and secondary care will be available. This will transform our understanding of outcomes in care.
Put together, these represent the biggest moves ever taken by any health service anywhere in the world to put transparency and patient participation at the very core of a health system.
There are other steps we urgently have to take to make the data revolution real. We will require all NHS providers funded by NHS England to use the NHS number as their primary identifier so that all data can be linked and patients identified, with accuracy. Never again should the mother I met have to wait for hours for a hoist to arrive at the bedside of her daughter. From April 2014, this will be a contractual obligation for providers.
That’s one key step on the road to the full implementation of safe, digital record keeping in the NHS, and it is the prize of seamless, interoperable data, accessible to the patient and the clinician in real time, that will finally guarantee high-quality outcomes and customer service for all.
Transparency is the future of the people’s NHS, and the future is open.
Tim Kelsey is the national director for patients and information at NHS England
Tim will be speaking at the ‘Empowering patients with transparent information’ session at the NHS Confederation annual conference and exhibition, 5 to 7 June in Liverpool:
Empowering patients with transparent information– 6 June, 17:30 – 18:30
Transparency has a crucial role to play if the full potential and power of information is to be realised across the delivery of NHS services. Initiatives such as the ‘friends and family test’ and providing online access to GP records to all patients by 2015 are already underway, but further innovations will be necessary.
This session will explore the latest plans to ensure national delivery of greater transparency and provide practical examples of how patients can utilise these resources to exercise more control over their care.
Mark Duman – Chair, Patient Information Forum
Tim Kelsey – National Director for Patients and Information, NHS England
Dr Mark Davies – Director Clinical and Public Assurance, Health & Social Care Information Centre