Site icon Local Democracy and Health

Information is Power…..for some. Department of Health Information Strategy

If you have not read ‘the Power of Information’ – don’t. At least not until you have read the the Equality Analysis first – this is excellent – it gives a succinct summary of the strategy and follows this up with a well researched description of the challenges we face with regard to accessing and using health information.

It is no coincidence that the Equality Analysis has been co-produced with the support of a range of voluntary and user led organisations (page 20)

The ‘Power of Information’ is a response (para 1.3) to the consultation on Liberating the NHS: An Information Revolution and to the Information report produced by the NHS Future Forum. As the NHS Future Forum states (para 5.4):

“…..information technology is only part of the story about data sharing, and not the main part (my emphasis). Time and again it was put to us that the effectiveness with which information is shared is primarily a matter of culture and behaviour”

The strategy goes on to devote almost 90 pages to promoting a technical solution to information sharing – using information technology.

Of the 30 plus case studies in the strategy I reckon that 85% are concerned with IT led interventions – the majority of which are concerned with data sharing between professionals. This highlights the real challenge.

There are already plenty of examples of IT data storage projects out there.  But far fewer examples of projects that describe ways in which information can be shared systematically directly between people – professionals and patients – and even fewer that do not involve IT. The failure of the strategy to address this is one of its significant deficits.

The strategy is concerned with using information technology to:

What the Equality Analysis says:

In addition to deficits and challenges the Equalty Analysis also makes a strong case for positive solutions – particularly through those provided by collaborations with the voluntary and community sector.

“There is evidence from the Voluntary and Community Sector that partnershps between specialist VCS groups and GPs, Trusts and clinics help to improve patient understanding, choice, use and access to information and therefore the patient ability to manage conditions and make effective decisions. There is an opportunity to improve information sharing with these groups by encouraging commissioners of health and care services to work with community led and user-owned organisations, to reach people in ways they can engage with.”

This is followed by positive examples with regard to HIV and work with blind BME women. (pages 13/14)

Equality and the Power of Information

There are sections in the strategy that recognise the above issues. For example among the 90 pages there are two paragaphs which state:

Unfortunately the above paragraphs are about as much detail as we get in the main strategy. Instead it devotes the rest of the document to detailed descriptions of universal IT led solutions.

It fails to sufficiently recognise the very specific and significant exclusions identified in the Equality Analysis and to propose in sufficient detail the actions that will be required to address them. It does not appear to have taken into account the Institute of Health Equities work on proportionate universalism.

There is a real risk – at a time of austerity – of further disenfranchising some of the most easily ignored and vulnerable communities; diverting energies to create a universalist model when we need to focus on bringing already discriminated groups up to the same level as the rest of us.

Key Issues

What do you think?

Exit mobile version