Imperial health and technology experts join UK health leaders to discuss data


Roundtable participants at Reform headquarters prior to event

Professor Aldo Faisal was joined at the roundtable event by Dr Timothy Ferris, Director of Transformation at NHS England.

In the third and final roundtable discussion on data and public health, a partnership between Imperial Policy Forum and the public services think tank Reform, leading health and technology experts sat down with senior NHS leadership and health service practitioners to discuss ‘the power of data to transform public health’.  

The featured speakers for this event were Dr Timothy Ferris, Director of Transformation at NHS England, and Aldo Faisal, Professor of AI & Neuroscience at Imperial College London.

The event was held under the Chatham House Rule. The remarks that follow will not be attributed to individual participants. 

Using data to improve outcomes and reduce demand

The featured speakers opened with reflections on the importance of reducing Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) as a measurable indication of improvements in UK population health. It was argued that it is essential that positive progress, even when incremental or indirect, is welcomed enthusiastically and built on. Whilst the ideal of linear ‘A to B’ developments remain, progress by ‘any positive vector’ should be sought and encouraged as innovators and service providers continue to address significant public health challenges in the UK.

One distinctive opportunity that was identified for positive progress is in the collection and use of data from many sources. A recent example from NHS Wales was cited, in which predictions of future hospitalisation can be made with more than 80% accuracy on the basis of effective use of patient data, enabling important, preventive interventions.

Developments like these are not only significant in terms of health outcomes (such as prevention and earlier detection) but will also work to reduce demand for spaces and treatments in hospitals and other healthcare settings already struggling with patient numbers.

Information governance and innovative data use for health

The remainder of the discussion reflected the diversity of the roundtable participants by cutting across multiple sectors and areas of application. Dr Leila Shepherd, Managing Director of the Helix Centre, an innovation lab in healthcare at Imperial College London, joined the roundtable, as did representatives of NHS Trusts, Integrated Care Systems, health and technology industries, and experts in population health.

The discussion built on the theme of innovative use of data by sharing ideas on the ways in which a more diverse range of data sources can be curated and shared between organisations involved in health service delivery. There was agreement around the table that the key issue of information governance in the context of data sharing had not been adequately resolved and that there remain steep challenges to collaboration in the sector, especially when in partnership with research organisations and industry.

There was general concern about the precipitous decline in clinical trials taking place in the UK over recent years, a trend which needs to be addressed to maintain our international innovation and research strengths.

One idea that generated significant discussion was on the potential role for Integrated Care Systems as data controllers for their regions, although it was acknowledged that similar proposals have met with public controversy and legal opposition in the past. The use of individualised GP indemnification contracts in Greater Manchester to facilitate regional data sharing was identified as one potential approach, but one that is likely to be difficult to replicate between government, NHS and the c. 6,000 General Practices currently responsible for patient data across the country.

Integrated Care Systems and the future of population health

After an extensive and wide-ranging set of discussions, the roundtable came to a conclusion with the agreement that Integrated Care Systems, still in their infancy, will have a key role to play in co-ordinating and improving service delivery. This role that still remains to be fully shaped and has the potential to be developed in response facts on the ground.

The discussion Chair thanked all participants for their contributions and noted the consensus around the table that these multi-sector and multi-stakeholder conversations should continue to mutually inform the research, innovation and delivery agendas with a singular focus on improving public health for all communities.

 A full write-up of the event from the Reform website is available here.

This event series was delivered in partnership with Imperial Policy Forum. To find out more about Imperial Policy Forum’s work connected Imperial researchers with policymakers, visit the IPF website.


Craig Whittall

Craig Whittall
Office of the President

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Government-and-policy, Health-policy, Big-data
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