Headlines: April 11th, 2005

Front-line staff in the National Health Service are expected to benefit from the new Health and Social Care Information Centre, which has come into being this month. The Centre has been set up to co-ordinate and streamline the collection and sharing of data about Health and Social Care.The new body also plans to be the central point for anyone needing information, including patients as well as clinicians, managers and regulators. The Information Centre is also reviewing how information is collated and managed centrally.

Its work should help front-line staff directly not just by reducing form filling but also by collecting the right information to improve the way services are managed.

The Information Centre’s role has emerged from the recently disbanded NHS Information Authority with the addition of some statistical functions formerly carried out by the Department of Health. The new centre will also build on work already going on to try to reduce the administrative burden on staff. This has seen the central data collection demand from the Department of Health dropping by 200 person years – about a third – in the last twelve months. That means that the working time of 200 health service staff each year has been freed from administrative duties.

The IC will also fulfil the role of engaging with both Health Service and Social Services staff to plan methods by which it can achieve its aims without adding to present staff workloads.

A new team has been set up to carry out the centre’s work. It will be chaired by Mike Ramsden, former Chief Executive of Leeds Health Authority. Professor Denise Lievesley, will become the centre’s Chief Executive in July after leaving her post as Director of Statistics for UNESCO.

Mike Ramsden said the new body was independent and would have a strong customer focus. “Our aim is to deliver the data and information resources needed by health and care professionals to run services and inform the public. We will start by co-ordinating existing information channels and identifying gaps in delivery and capability,” he said. Professor Lievesley said its role would be critical in improving the quality of health and social care through the timely dissemination of data of integrity, and related analyses.