NHS Digital and the Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN) have begun the testing phase of a programme that will see data on privately-funded care from independent hospitals collected by the NHS for the first time.

If successful, the pilot will pave the way for a comprehensive national dataset of public and private hospital data in England, facilitating the production of ‘whole-practice’ information for doctors and hospitals providing both NHS and private care. The need for such information was highlighted by the independent inquiry into rogue breast surgeon Ian Paterson, who provided unsanctioned and unnecessary treatment to patients in NHS and private hospitals.

The pilots are part of the Acute Data Alignment Programme (ADAPt), initiated by the health secretary in 2018, and led jointly by NHS Digital, the information authority for the NHS in England, and PHIN, the government-mandated ‘information organisation’ for private healthcare. A public consultation held earlier this year saw overwhelming support for the programme from organisations representing both professionals and patients.

The ADAPt pilots will test the technical changes needed to transfer the collection of private admitted patient data from PHIN to NHS Digital. This data will be fed onto PHIN to facilitate the publication of whole-practice performance measures for hospitals and consultants offering private healthcare services, in line with the Private Healthcare Market Investigation Order 2014.

It is planned that the national dataset will be made available through the NHS Digital to regulators and public bodies to assist monitoring of safety and help drive service improvement.

Jem Rashbass, executive director of data services at NHS Digital, said: “We are pleased that the Adapt programme has reached this important milestone with the launch of these pilots. The consultation has shown that there is a desire for a joined-up approach to data in public and private healthcare and these pilots will be the next step on achieving that. Making data available across the whole healthcare sector is invaluable to ensuring the highest standards of care for patients and transparency across the system.” 

Matt James, chief executive of PHIN, added: “We are committed to a vision of a single system of data collection for all regulated care regardless of how it is funded or where it is provided, led by the NHS. This will enable better governance and regulation to ensure safer care, and better information becoming available to patients to enable informed decisions. These pilots are an important step, and we hope to move on quickly to full implementation.” 

Minister for patient safety Nadine Dorries said: “I’m grateful to see lessons are being learned and acted upon following the harrowing findings of the Paterson Inquiry, with processes being put in place to improve accountability and patient safety in the independent healthcare sector. This pilot is an important step and will pave the way for more data sharing and transparency between the NHS and private healthcare sectors, so every patient can get safe, high quality treatment, regardless of where they are treated.”  

Date published: January 8, 2021

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