Health and social care: data strategy

Scotland’s first data strategy for health and social care, setting out how we will work together in transforming the way that people access their own data to improve health and wellbeing; and how care is delivered through improvements to our systems.

Foreword from the Chair of the Data Board for Health and Social Care

The publication of ‘Care in the Digital Age’ in 2021 presented a unique and important opportunity to clarify and make explicit our aims and goals to improve the quality of health and social care data, and to make it more accessible and shareable. This Data Strategy supports the aims of the NHS Recovery Plan, work to improve population health outcomes through the Care and Wellbeing Portfolio approach, social care reform and the proposed delivery of a National Care Service. By supporting the transformation of our health and care system using data, we will be better able to identify and address the gaps in data and the challenges of data quality.

The Data Strategy will ensure that health and social care data supports the delivery of health and care services, and that it does so in a way that empowers citizens and staff and supports innovation and research.

The Health and Social Care Data Board has been set up to provide oversight and governance of the Data Strategy and its associated delivery plans. Membership has been drawn from a wide and diverse community representative of health and social care to ensure the ambition and reach of the Strategy is achieved in a timely way. It also ensures close alignment with Scotland’s Digital Health and Care Strategy, as well as supporting the legislation and ambitions of the new National Care Service.

The growing voice of the research and innovation community, including current and prospective commercial and industry partners, for access to more timely and validated data reminds us of the vital role data must play in delivering better and more equitable outcomes for the people of Scotland and to support our economic growth as a nation.

This Strategy will be a dynamic, evolving, living document to adapt and respond to new and emerging data challenges as well as embracing the need to improve what we have already started when needed. We are committed to delivering the long-awaited improvements that can support short term goals and quick wins. We are also committed through the Strategy, to working out how to address inequalities in the system and some of the complex challenges we know exist in providing good enough, near real-time data as well as validated, robust data for the purposes of service planning and evaluation, and research and statistics.

We must do more to develop the digital and data skills of our system leaders and deploy them where they can affect the most impact and change by working with NHS Education for Scotland, the Local Government Digital Office, and the Scottish Social Services Council. We must also develop and utilise the wider leadership skills of our workforce, including quality improvement and health and care recipients’ safety; and systems leadership through the confident and effective use of data.

Public trust and the ethical use of data for public good is central to this Strategy. We are working alongside colleagues across government to ensure the principles of Open Government are followed as we define and publish key, ethically sound and publicly trusted principles to support the unlocking of the social and economic value associated with the use of public sector personal data in the service of the people of Scotland. In addition, artificial intelligence and machine learning solutions and products will be at the core of data-driven innovation, enabled by our shared ambition and pragmatic approach. The vital work to be taken forward following the review of information governance will further provide a strong, future-proofed platform for change that will give assurance to the public, and enable those managing and controlling data to work more effectively.

As we launch this first Data Strategy and focus on delivery of its aims and priorities, I invite you to join us and make change happen so that we can achieve our shared ambitions over the coming years.

Carol Sinclair, Chair of the Data Board for Health and Social Care



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