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Quarter of NHS data collection to go in red-tape slash plan

They make a desert, and call it rationalised

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The UK's Department of Health hopes to save millions by cutting data collection and red tape across the NHS.

A 12-week consultation, launched on Tuesday and due to run until 22 November, aims to pool ideas for plans to slash data collection across the NHS by a quarter (25 per cent), saving an estimated £10m in the process. The scheme aims to release administrative and clerical resources to better support frontline patient care.

Patient groups, research organisations, academic institutions and NHS trusts are invited to contribute to streamline the data collection process. Around 300 separate data collections commissioned by the Department of Health and affiliated bodies are up for review. A second phase of process will review how data-returns programs that survive the first phrase of the process can be "rationalised", so that data can be collected and processed more efficiently.

David Harley, a former NHS IT manager who now works as a senior researcher with net security firm ESET, told El Reg that he had concerns over the direction of the project.

"It's likely that appreciable savings can be made if this is done properly, though I suspect that there will be some impact on patient care," Harley said. "It seems to me that in the long term more aggregation of data rather than less would make the NHS more efficient, but I can't see the cost of doing that properly being countenanced in the present economic climate."

In a statement, public health minister Anne Milton said: "Meaningful information is the lifeblood of the NHS. The data we collect must be of real value to help us improve patient outcomes, patient choice and clinical decisions. We know that some of the data that is being gathered is of limited use, taking up valuable staff time and resources.

"This is why we want to cut red tape in the NHS so that staff can focus on what matters most – improving frontline care and services for patients," she added.

Tim Straughan, chief executive of the NHS Information Centre, added: "The purpose of this review is to make sure we collect data that can make a real impact in helping to improve care while stopping data returns that are no longer needed and only continue for historical reasons."

"In reaching our recommendations, we looked at more than 300 data returns, covering 12 distinct themes and involving contributions from over 200 people. We believe the result of review will free local NHS staff from unnecessary administrative burdens while at the same time supporting patient choice and better decision-making within the NHS," he added. ®

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