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The Information Centre holds data that is as diverse as the people who use NHS and social care services. It has millions of facts and figures with the power to provide insight into health and social care management and to support decision making.
'Transforming data into information that is valued and used is fundamental to delivering better health and care services for patients,' said Professor Denise Lievesley, chief executive of the Information Centre (IC).
Making this information accessible to a wide range of audiences is both a passion and priority for The IC, a young organization created in April 2005 from the former NHS Information Authority and the statistics directorate of the Department of Health.
Employing around 300 people, based in Leeds with a small liaison office in London, The IC is committed to ensuring that information is relevant for professionals and managers to enable them to deliver quality care efficiently.
Professor Denise Lievesley explains: 'Data is a generally undervalued asset in the health and care communities. Our aim is to change that by providing sound information, gathered efficiently, to provide the evidence-base for health and social care policies. We aim to transform both the flows of information and attitudes about how information can be used intelligently for decision making that promotes quality, efficiency and equity.'
In its first 18 months it has established relationships with key stakeholders in the NHS, social care, the Department of Health and regulatory bodies to understand their information needs.
Early achievements include the publication of the Quality Outcomes Framework information, which is critical for the remuneration of GPs, and a ground-breaking agreement with Ordnance Survey to promote and support the use of computerized mapping across the NHS.
The IC works very closely with Connecting for Health especially in relation to the Secondary Uses Services in order to ensure that the information collected will be available for as many purposes as possible consistent with the protection of confidentiality.
Working to support the Healthcare Commission, the IC has also delivered clinical audits for cancer, diabetes and heart disease providing information to improve performance and drive up the quality of care. For example, key findings from the Diabetes Audit suggested one in four people of the two million with diabetes in the England are currently undiagnosed.
The IC is responsible for developing the methodology for healthcare resource groups which are the building blocks for many of the healthcare systems including payment by results.
The management and analysis of Hospital Episode Statistics - the data warehouse for hospital activity - has been passed to The IC by the Department of Health. Annually The IC publishes about 120 statistical reports containing information across a wide range of areas including births and family planning, sickness and health, NHS work and pay, prevention and screening, lifestyle, social care, dentistry, prescriptions and pharmacy.
The IC has an increasingly important role to play in establishing the framework for the provision of national comparative data, supporting practice-based commissioning, advising on data quality and encouraging and stimulating the development of a dynamic market for information services.
An example of The IC's innovative approach is its recent 50:50 public-private agreement to form Dr Foster Intelligence, a new approach to information management in the NHS.
Denise commented: 'Health and social care are constantly changing to improve services and increase efficiency. In turn we need to ensure the way information is collected and delivered meets the demands of the changing environment. Our partnership with Dr Foster Intelligence is just one example of this.
'As an organization we will be taking the lead to make information more accessible, reduce the burden of data collection on the front line and strengthen the capacity for informed decision making.'