13 February 2013
The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has warned against bringing more regulation into the NHS after the findings of the Francis report which recommended 290 changes to the health service.
In an apparent rebuttal of the main points of the Francis report, Hunt said at an event held by the Reform think tank that it was impossible to impose a care and compassion diktat on the NHS from "on high" by regulators or politicians. Indeed, there was already regulatory madness in the service and following Francis he did not want the NHS to fall into an "elephant trap" of more even regulation.
Hunt told the tale of the chief executive of one of the country's best teaching hospitals who worked out it would take her 38 hours a week to attend all the external meetings she was asked to go to, most of which have nothing to do with patient care. And he mentioned foundation trusts having 60 different regulatory, licensing, commissioning and public scrutiny authorities to report to and comply with.
Hunt also announced that Mike Farrar, the chief executive of the NHS Confederation, would be tasked with looking into how joint inspections and shared information could improve clinical outcomes and free up more time to care.
David Downing, director of health at SAS UK, said that for Jeremy Hunt's reform to achieve the success he hoped, the public sector would need to break free of its restrictive mentality towards data. It must differentiate between the use of named patient data – which requires consent – and anonymous, aggregated data, which can improve understanding of patients' conditions to enable earlier intervention or worst case scenario planning.
"While consent and transparency about how insights being shared are important issues," he said, "they should not be a barrier to improvements in care. By breaking down data silos within the NHS and applying analytics to patient data, it could deliver on its aims of improving patient care and integrating care across different organisations.
"Anonymous, aggregated data has the power to inform the commissioners making policies, arm front-line health professionals with crucial insights and transform the quality of public health services in line with the health secretary's ambitions."