4. Scotland's COVID-19 data and intelligence network
We know that the virus can spread through individuals even when they don't have symptoms themselves. So, in reducing the spread of COVID-19, an early warning of any resurgence will be key. The Scottish COVID-19 Data and Intelligence Network has been established to ensure Scotland's data and research community address these challenges and help minimise the spread of the virus.
The Network brings together expertise from across local authorities, health boards, Directors of Public Health, Health and Social Care Partnerships, Public Health Scotland, Scottish Government, academia and other public bodies.
It will ensure that we have data and intelligence in the hands of the right people, in a form they can use, at the right time – sharing and analysing data at pace, and at the right quality to avoid multiple versions of the truth. The coordinated management of this information will allow people to make rapid and proportionate decisions at both the local and national level. It will allow us to:
- Quickly identify where any outbreak of COVID-19 occurs;
- Protect vulnerable populations; and
- Evaluate the impact of the outbreak on health, care and society
We also need to make sure that we gather and use this data and intelligence with the right scrutiny in place to ensure data is shared and analysed safely and securely. The ethical use of data is critical to the operation and success of the Network and clear and transparent communication to the public about the uses of data and by whom will be key.
Building on existing relationships and systems, the sharing of data about individuals will be subject to scrutiny by our existing Public Benefit and Privacy Panels. The network will regularly publish details on how data about individuals is used and ongoing engagement with the Information Commissioner's Office will provide reassurance about the approaches taken.
The Data and Intelligence Network has already introduced products that help inform decision making:
- On the 28 May, a COVID-19 data research service was established. This provides secure access to data to help provide answers to key analytical and research questions about the nature of spread, risks and effects of COVID-19;
- On the 10 June, a management information system for Test and Protect was implemented. The statistical report is published weekly by Public Health Scotland;
- On 22 June, new systems to provide Health Boards with key management information to support the operational control and delivery of the test and protect service were introduced; and
- On the 6 July enhanced systems for public bodies to provide virus surveillance dashboards were introduced. These enable access across public bodies to current local level data and a range of information products. This will support local public health teams identify potential new COVID-19 clusters. It will include lead indicators such as the number of calls to NHS 24 for respiratory conditions and the percentage of positive COVID cases. Further early warning indicators will be added later in July.
As we move forward, more public facing information and surveillance products are planned. This includes a product that will help people and communities across Scotland understand and manage risk. This is currently in development and planned to go live as part of phase 3 of the Scottish Government's Routemap through COVID to support the public in making decisions about their own actions.
The intelligence will continue to build, and as it does our understanding of the risk of different factors in contracting the virus and its severity will increase. The Scottish COVID-19 Data and Intelligence Network is focussed on enabling local Health Boards and local resilience partnerships to take rapid, effective action. This will be an integral part of our approach to suppressing outbreaks and is described further in Section 5.