At the TFPL Health SIG last week, Sue Lacey Bryant and other speakers took as their text the Department of Health’s Information strategy, the Power of Information. Not for the first time has an information strategy emerged from Richmond House which is not about information but, in Guy Daines’s words, about data, data and more data.
There’s an archive of tweets; we were tweeting using #tfplhealthsig, and, by a happy coincidence, Health Information & Libraries Journal published an editorial in this month’s issue:
Carlyle, R. The power of information: health information and UK agendas. Health Information and Libraries Journal 2012, 29(4): 257-259 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/hir.12011/full [subscription required].
Vivienne Winterman of TFPL drew our attention to section 5.43 of the Power of Information in particular, ‘there is a need for informatics development to be woven into education and training activity (planning, commissioning and delivery) for health and care staff, recognising that information and IT are at the heart of new ways of working'. The Department of Health and Health Education England will want to consider building informatics standards into education outcomes and to the NHS Mobile Working Centre.
She drew attention to the backgrounds of members of the NHS Commissioning Board, who have come from Microsoft, Capita and Walgreens, and Samantha Riley in particular, who has a known interest in knowledge management. She didn’t mention Tim Kelsey, though, which was odd, and I wondered if his injunction to clinicians to code might come up in discussion, but no.
Sue Lacey Bryant commented that there was a lot around intelligence and data in the strategy. She mentioned the intriguingly named post of Head of Rectification The patient journey is fraught with information failures, and we should ask ourselves how does the system work, for example for the frail elderly? The benefits of information are well-understood: why are there no conferences to talk about these benefits? The strategy makes much of innovation and we should identify the critical success factors for lifting and shifting, pointing out what’s transferable and what’s meaningless. She mentioned the portal [such a 1990s word-TR] plans in the strategy for a single trusted source, combining elements of NHS Direct and NHS Choices She drew attention to the requirement for patients to be able to feed back and review services. For health professionals the benefits will be in efficiency and access to real time accurate data. From 2013 the family and friends test will be introduced. Is informatics going to lead knowledge management, Sue asked? We could look for quick wins with social media. We need to be able to share lessons and identify who could be our best advocate at the Department of Health, and who could be our partners. It will become much tougher, financially, she warned, and we need to be able to provide the best ‘bang for buck’ for patients.
Guy Daines, Head of Policy at CILIP, took us through policy development. CILIP’s Health Strategy Group, on which I once upon a time had the honour to serve and thought to be moribund, is alive and well and is extending its membership to include the Society of Chief Librarians. CILIP’s Future Skills Project has also been looking at Information Matters, the Government's knowledge and information management strategy and its implications for information literacy including the health sector. Since Equity and Excellence: liberating the NHS there has been a plethora of consultations, and a new organisational landscape has emerged. Public Health England’s knowledge transition team is in advance of the others, led by Anne Brice. Library and knowledge services might be victims of the Nicholson challenge, the £20bn ‘efficiency’ savings required of the NHS by 2015 (and unlikely to be met, according to the King’s Fund’s latest quarterly monitoring report-TR ).
'It will get bloody worse,’ said Guy, discussing the history of the Health and Social Care Act 2012, the only legislation with a pause in it, and Andrew Lansley's role as both the Act’s architect and victim. The Power of Information itself he described as a framework, not a strategy. And it is all about data, data, data. Bob Gann is leading on the single portal project and the Commissioning Board is being encouraged to give guidance to CCGs on the support necessary for patient information. Public libraries are becoming involved through the Reading Agency’s Health and Well-being project . SHALL is working with Health Education England on the role of information in CPD and learning for health professionals, but at the moment Public Health England seem the most coherent and convincing. There are new hooks on which to hang advocacy, for example Health and Wellbeing Boards. We should meet key people next year, Guy suggested. That’s far too late, in my opinion
Dominic Campbell presented PatchworkHQ, which originated at a Local Government Information Unit round table. Driven by the social web, it’s a wide network app used by 20-25 agencies, including my neighbours NHS Brighton & Hove and is essentially a super-charged phone directory that allows practitioners from different organisations to connect around their client, putting, he claims, power with the practitioner. They release new functionality every few weeks. It’s best to keep it as simple as possible, he said, in fact they had to fight to stop people adding more and more. People expect enhancements as soon as they ask for them, but he has gone for a more Apple-like approach to development and new releases.
Richard Osborn, London lead for Strategic Health Authority Library Leads (SHALL), doing a job that it once took four regional librarians to do, took us through SHALL’s advocacy work. In four months Strategic Health Authorities will cease to exist. SHAs provided the organisational framework for library leadership in England, and so library and knowledge services are to come under Health Education England with the SHALL library leads being lifted and shifted into the care of the Director of Education and Quality. Locally they will operate under the aegis of Local Education and Training Boards (LETBs, which the cognoscenti say as Let-Bees, I discovered). When they try to raise library and knowledge issues they’re told, ‘now is not the time’. SHALL is working with NICE and NHS Evidence, ‘a challenge all of itself’ and Academic Health Science Networks, to my mind a better host for library services than the Local Education and Training Boards, NHS Improvement, the Commissioning Board and CCGs, Public Health England, and the National Institute of Health Research SHALL’s Consumer Heath Information Group has been struggling to make progress in the absence of any central leadership. Will the Power of Information bring people together? A national meeting in May or June 2013 will be held for everyone with an interest in consumer health information and by then the public library health offer will be out.
The emphasis of the strategy on patient information suggests that this is a growth area libraries should be concentrating their energies on, but by no means all of us see patient information as part of our role. There is a compelling case for the reinvention of the post of NHS Library Adviser, so ably filled by Margaret Haines and Veronica Fraser, and so short-sightedly axed.