Industry body calls for government to invest in health and social care data to recover from Covid-19

An industry lobby group has called on government to invest in health and social care data as part of a national tech-led recovery from Covid-19.

The Scottish Council for Development & Industry (SCDI) published a report this week which calls for government to learn the lessons of the pandemic and build resilience for the public health challenges of the future.

That resilience would include harnessing NHS and social care data, worth an estimated £800 million every year according to research from Dell and EY, and could be harnessed to deliver £5.4 billion in savings for NHS Scotland alone, which represents around 38 per cent of its annual budget that could be reinvested into patient care.

The report shows how the collection, analysis and sharing of data about the virus has proven essential in helping policymakers, researchers and health & social care professionals to save lives and livelihoods during the pandemic.

Health and social care data has been shared around the world and across Scotland to identify and control outbreaks, shape public health restrictions, design business support, develop more effective treatments and accelerate the vaccine rollout.

Mind the Gap suggests that to build resilience into our health and social care systems for the future the country needs to investment now in new and potentially revolutionary technologies like AI and automation, underpinned by ethical, robust and secure data.

Sara Thiam, SCDI’s Chief Executive, said: “As we look to recover and build resilience from Covid-19, this report could not be more timely or more important.

“Our doctors, nurses, pharmacists and social care professionals working in our hospitals, our care homes and our communities have been heroic throughout the pandemic. They deserve our support to harness data, digital and technology to transform health & social care for the future.

“Scotland has a narrow window of opportunity to establish itself as a leader in data and innovation in health & social care. There are big social and economic gains for all of us if we can work together to close Scotland’s data gap.”

Alison Culpan, Director of the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry in Scotland, said: “Now more than ever we need to close the data gap and re-establish Scotland as a country at the forefront of digital innovation. This report clearly outlines the steps required to realise the data vision and ensure healthcare data can not only improve patient lives but stimulate economic growth in a post-COVID world.

“ABPI Scotland was delighted to be part of SCDI’s steering group and remain committed to delivering the safe use of healthcare data for all of Scotland’s citizens.”

The report identifies what it calls ‘Scotland’s Data Gap’ – the gap between ‘the health and social care data we collect, utilise or share today and the health & social care data we need and could collect, utilise or share in the future’ to better design and deliver care and services. It says that trust and transparency is key and that health and social care data needs to be ‘ethical, secure and anonymised as far as possible with robust governance arrangements for use and sharing’.

The report welcomes the Scottish Government’s commitment – announced in its Programme for Government last September – to create a dedicated data strategy for health and social care, which is due to be published later in 2021. However, it says that the delivery of the strategy needs to be backed by a Health & Social Care Transformation Fund to invest in closing Scotland’s Data Gap.

The report – which is the result of engagement with experts, stakeholders, businesses and workers across the Scottish economy – identifies four key priorities for long-term, strategic investment:

  • Strategy: Developing an ambitious, collaborative and innovative national approach to harnessing data to transform health and social care which maximises social and economic gains
  • Culture and Leadership: Empowering leaders to drive change by building an ambitious and collaborative national culture of innovation in data, digital and technology
  • Skills: Investing in reskilling, upskilling and lifelong learning to develop a health and social care workforce better equipped to harness data, digital and technology
  • Infrastructure: Modernising and upgrading health and social care infrastructure to build a single national data architecture which integrates systems, enables ethical data sharing and creates secure digital health records.

Steph Wright, Director of Health & Wellbeing Engagement, The Data Lab, said: “Data and AI have huge potential to significantly impact the delivery of better health and social care in Scotland. As Scotland’s innovation centre for data and AI, we at the Data Lab were delighted to contribute to this report. We look forward to working with everyone to realise this potential.”

To read the report in full visit here.