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Six things we learned on how to improve NHS tracing service

Six things we learned on how to improve NHS tracing service

NHS Digital has recently published a report on tracing services, which sets out a series of recommendations for changes and improvements.
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NHS Digital has recently published a report on tracing services, which sets out a series of recommendations for changes and improvements.

The tracing service allows NHS Digital to ‘determine whether a patient is, or has been, registered with a GP practice or other NHS care services’.

Here’s the pick of what Healthcare Leader learnt from the report.

1) The NHS Code of Practice should be updated

The review says that the Code of Practice, published in 2003, ‘doesn’t reflect current statute, juridical precedent and NHS practice’.

The Department of Health (DH) has agreed to review it to ‘improve public confidence in the NHS’s handling of data’.

We’re not sure how confident patients are on their data confidentiality since the ’relatively unsophisticated’ cyber attack in May that made their records inaccessible for some time.

But luckily NHS Digital ‘believes no patient data were compromised or stolen'. Isn’t there’s a difference between believing and knowing?

2) When patients’ data disclosure needs their consent, patients should be informed 

Health and care tracing service functions, such as the Skipton Fund payment scheme, should inform patients prior to disclosing their information, ‘where the legal basis for disclosure of personal data is consent’.

The review says: ‘It is right that people should feel confident that information about their health and care is properly safeguarded, is appropriately handled by NHS Digital, and is only disclosed to other parties after full and careful consideration.’

According to the review, there has been a lack of process to confirm that patient consent was obtained where required. Sounds a bit dodgy to us.

3) Good tracing services deliver good outcomes

The authors of the review are ‘wholly persuaded that tracing services, when properly configured and managed in accordance with the appropriate legal framework, deliver significant benefit to individual patients, their families and the wider public’.

The proof was obtained through ‘extensive ’analysis and users feedback.

We’ve always thought that poor configuration was the best to achieve success. Well, if studies said the opposite, who are we to disagree?

NHS Digital is to establish a formal protocol to review all applications from organisations that want to use tracing services.

4) Data should be sent securely

Stakeholders can decide whether to use NHSmail encryption a feature, when sending emails.

The review recommends that the National Back Office (NBO) ‘should explore the recent enhancements to NHSmail encryption to allow the Skipton Fund, and other organisations, to send data to NHS Digital securely’.

Wait, shouldn’t data always be sent securely?

5) Tracing service’s funding should match long-term financial viability

The tracing service is funded through various mechanisms, including grant-in-aid, contracted service re-charge and fee for service.

The charges have remained the same for around seven years.

The review suggests NHS Digital executive team should commissions a review of the funding and charging arrangements ‘to ensure that the tracing service has, in light of the potential for increased activity, firm foundations for long-term financial viability’.

Good luck finding extra money.

6) The DBSB and the DBS should be combined

The review proposes to combine the Demographics Batch Service Bureau (DBSB) with the Demographic Batch Service (DBS) into a single service or merge their functions under one ‘operational and service management structure’.

We don’t fully understand the differences between these two services but the idea of simplifying processes might save people a headache.

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