On the 22nd of June 2021, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) published its draft strategy ‘Data saves lives’ on the use of data within the health and social care sector, available here. In the draft strategy, the DHSC set out its plans to use data to improve the health and care of the general population, with the ultimate goal to have a health care system that is supported with accessible and high-quality data.

The proposed changes come at a time when the use of data to improve patient care and digital developments are even more important as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.


The document outlines three key priorities underpinning the DHSC strategy:

  • To build understanding on how data is used, explore the potential for data innovation, and improve transparency so the public has control over how DHSC make use of their data.
  • To make appropriate data sharing the norm across health, adult social care and public health.
  • To build the right technical, legal and regulatory foundations to make these priorities possible.

The DHSC plans to announce secondary legislation to require all adult social care providers to provide information about all the services they fund to ensure service users have the best care and experience and to give staff more information in providing care.

The draft strategy is split across seven chapters, here are the key takeaways from each chapter:

  • Bringing people closer to their data: the strategy plan includes breaking down data barriers and giving patients’ confidence that their health and care staff have up-to-date data. The plan is to give patients more control over their health data with easier access to their test results; medication lists; procedures; and care plans across all parts of the health system through patient apps, such as the NHS App.
  • Giving health and care professionals the data they need to provide the best possible care: this commitment includes plans to embed the Information Governance Portal as a one-stop-shop for guidance and assistance when it comes to data sharing. DHSC also plans to develop a national information governance strategy to address training for frontline staff and develop new e-learning packages on the use of data.
  • Supporting local and national decision makers with data: efforts to support national decision makers with data will include ensuring that adult social care providers integrate with basic shared records solutions across health by September 2022. DHSC hopes this will give national leaders, the necessary insights and evidence required for an accurate understanding of the health and care system to develop better policy and guidance.
  • Improving data for adult social care: DHSC points out that few social care providers have access to information about the people in their care. DHSC wants to collect client-level data rather than aggregate data from local authorities to ensure that social care providers have regular and comprehensive data to enable person-centred, sustainable innovation for adult social care.
  • Empowering researchers with the data they need to develop life-changing treatments, models of care and insights: DHSC also set out plans to support researchers with data. To provide reassurance to the public that those entrusted with their data are keeping it safe, DHSC is also looking to develop new technological advances in how data is collected, stored and analysed. These systems will increasingly look to trusted research environments (TREs) which are secure spaces where researchers can access sensitive data without breaching privacy.
  • Helping colleagues develop the right technical infrastructure: this DHSC strategy focuses on setting up the necessary technical infrastructure in which data can be accessed in real-time through APIs via a national gateway. DHSC wants to agree target data architecture for health and social care outlining how and where data will be stored, shared and sent by winter 2021.
  • Helping developers and innovators to improve health and care: this final chapter acknowledges that innovators will be supported to develop and deliver new solutions quickly and safely for the benefit of all citizens, staff and the system. DHSC underlines the importance of using artificial intelligence (AI) to improve the delivery of health and care services by analysing large quantities of complex information. To support this effort, DHSC will ensure AI regulation is fit for purpose as part of amending the Medical Devices Regulations 2002 following the UK’s departure from the EU and aim to streamline the regulation pathway for AI technologies to enable innovators to get their products on the market in an efficient manner.

Next Steps

One thing we have learnt from the difficult COVID-19 pandemic is the importance of data and the potential it has to make a difference when it is used appropriately and effectively. The DHSC strategy has the potential to unlock health and care data for the benefit of everyone. The draft strategy is open for public consultation until 5 p.m. on the 23rd July 2021. If you would like to offer feedback, you can do so by accessing this link