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.

Talent and Culture

We want to attract, develop, support, and retain a workforce that is confident and competent in the use of data. This includes all staff having essential data skills that help us all to better manage the information we all depend upon, and advanced data skills that help us to create more insight from data.

What we have achieved so far

We are already beginning to see a clear recognition across health and social care organisations that services need to be data-driven, and an acknowledgement of the cultural shift required to prioritise digital and data skills of the workforce. In our first year we have:

  • Development of training resources. COSLA’s Digital Office has developed an essential data skills training resource which is available to staff as an online learning course. Originally developed by Perth and Kinross Council, this course has been made available to staff within Local Government and the wider health and social care workforce. Additionally, PHS and NES have developed training to support analysts to make greater use of R.
  • Pilot of Digital Data and Technology (DDaT) Professional Capability Framework. Discussions are underway to explore the suitability of the DDaT Framework for implementation in NHS Scotland Boards. This will help organisations review and identify the roles required within the DDaT Workforce to enable transformational change and identify skills gaps to allow consistent upskilling of staff across health. A pilot of the DDaT Framework is being discussed and NSS and Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) have agreed to participate, the inclusion of a territorial Board is still being explored. Additionally, work is underway to co-design a DDaT competency framework for use within local councils that will provide a clear indication of the skills required for certain roles and help staff to assess their current skillset and provide a clear career pathway.
  • Digital Leadership. The ‘Leading Digital Transformation in Health & Care’ MSc was launched in March 2023 in conjunction with the University of Edinburgh. It is recognised that in order to effectively make use of digital tools, people must also have an understanding of data. This course has been designed to provide digital leaders and those aspiring to be leaders across health and care with the opportunity to achieve Certificate, Diploma, or Masters level accreditation. In recognising the importance of data, the course has the following data module:
    • Data Led Health and Social Care
  • The ‘Leading in the Digital Age Board’ Development Workshops have now been launched to develop the digital leadership mindset of Board level leaders and provides learning resources and training events for health and care organisations across Scotland.
  • Digital Health & Care Leadership Programme. This long-established Programme that originated in Health Boards, now in its 22nd cohort, has wider coverage and is now open to applications from employees from all health and social care settings in Scotland including health, social care, social work, housing, charities and the third sector. This programme is aimed at those who are keen to explore how digital technology (and the data they interact with) can benefit people, would like to develop their leadership skills and are in a position to make a change in their organisation (e.g. leading a team, service, or digital transformation project).

How this helps to achieve our vision

The transformation of health and social care services is reliant upon the successful use of data. We are aware that there is more to be done to support staff to understand the importance of collecting and using data to improve delivery of care. The majority of job roles in health and care require a level of core digital and data skills. By ensuring essential data skills is an integral part of our Digital Skills & Leadership aim, we are supporting staff to develop the right skills and ensure a baseline understanding so that data is being recorded and used effectively. For roles that require specialist data knowledge, exploring the DDaT framework for implementation is key to investing in a consistent approach to the transformation of job roles. It will ensure staff have the necessary skills development and access to learning resources. This framework sets out a common language to describe roles and defines the skills needed. It facilitates transformation, as well as personal development for the DDaT workforce. By clearly defining the specialist skills required and providing a clear career pathway this will help with recruitment and retention ensuring that staff have the right data skills to create insight from data that can be used to improve delivery of care for the people of Scotland.

Understanding the purpose and role of Data in Decision Making, Change, and Service Transformation is an integral component of our Digital Health & Care Leadership programmes. By investing in and expanding our Digital Leadership Programmes and opportunities, we are ensuring that digital leadership and the importance of digital and data transformation is embedded at all levels of health & care organisations.

What’s next for 2024-25?

Digital and Data Skills and Leadership Governance

To date the delivery of the Digital Skills & Leadership commitment has been overseen by the cross-sector Digital Skills & Leadership Programme Board. This Board has now been replaced by Digital Capabilities Board which will have linkage to the Data Board and other Boards as set out in the overarching Governance for Digital Health & Care. The purpose of this new Digital Capabilities Board will further build on our success and have a more collaborative and wider strategic aim across health and care to inform and deliver our transformational aims.

The Digital Capabilities Board will support the shift to embedding data and digital ways of working as a pre-requisite to improving outcomes in health and social care and:

  • aim to further develop our leaders to embrace a digital-by-default mindset to empower and support their teams to adopt new digital solutions and allocate time to improving their own digital literacy,
  • articulate how embracing digital ways of working and learning new skills can support recruitment and critically the retention of the workforce across health and social care/social work,
  • develop learning pathways to support growth of a digitally capable workforce and specific career pathways for our digital specialist workforce,
  • embed an understanding of and commitment to progressing digital maturity as a catalyst for continuous improvement in service delivery and design.

The Board will support and be informed by a newly created Digital Capabilities Network. This network will host thematic meetings, open to all colleagues for all relevant organisations.

A review of the learning offers and resources will be undertaken to identify and improve the learning available to support professionals to increase their data skills.



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