Health and social care - data strategy: 2024 update - progress and priorities

An update on progress in the first year of Scotland's first data strategy for health and social care and future priorities.

Supporting Research and Innovation

We will support research and innovation by facilitating safe access to health and social care data for industry, innovators and researchers, so that we can work together to develop better ways of working, better treatments, new medicines and improved services for care in Scotland.

What’s been achieved so far?

In our first year we have:

  • Researcher Access Service. A new Researcher Access Service has been developed and will begin to roll out incrementally. The service provides guidance and support to researchers and informs them of the data that is available. Data sharing agreements were set up between Research Data Scotland (RDS) and PHS to provide access to subsets of key datasets under the new service. The initial service went live in early 2024 and will enable quicker and more efficient access to data for research in a secure environment, increasing throughput of high-quality research to benefit patients and the public.
  • Approvals Process for Access to Data for Research and Innovation Purposes. RDS reviewed the approvals process for research projects to provide an assessment of current best practice and provided recommendations for an aligned efficient data access approvals system for Scotland. Work is underway to develop a delivery plan to implement the recommendations for improving the approvals process. A phased approach will be taken to deliver this work from now until Summer 2026. This should provide a quicker more streamlined approach to gaining access to data for research purposes.
  • Industry Representation in Strategic Governance. Representatives from Precision Medicine Scotland and the Data Lab have been invited to become members of the Health and Social Care Data Board. This will ensure that the perspective of research and industry is consistently represented, through innovation centres, in strategic governance of health and social care data.

How this helps to achieve our vision

Accessing data for research and innovation purposes has historically been a long complex process. By improving these processes, we have made it easier and quicker for researchers and innovators to obtain approval to access data. This will support researchers to access data at pace and drive-up high-quality research to support improved ways of working and develop better treatments across health and care services for people in Scotland.

What’s next for 2024-25?

Our priority for 2024-25 is to:

  • Safe Haven Charter. Work will continue to improve the approvals process for access to data for research purposes. This will include developing a new Safe Haven Charter to set a clear direction for all Safe Havens in Scotland. This new charter will provide more streamlined Information Governance processes, greater Data Controller, and public assurance, and enable research and innovation using NHS and other datasets at greater speed and scale.
  • Researcher Access Service. We will support the launch of the new Researcher Access Service within RDS and look for further opportunities to expand this service. Continuous Improvements will be made to the service, as we develop an understanding of how people are using the service and as other areas of work such as Information Governance progress.



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