· it is not the norm for data and insight to be shared
· the benefits of sharing data and insight are not universally understood
· there are not established processes to allow data sharing
· insight is not gathered early enough
· commissioners sometimes do not fully understand pressures in VCSE capacity
· barriers to data sharing even exist within formal partnerships and collaborations.
The barriers are:
· technical, for example, issues for VCSE connecting to NHS systems and vice versa
· cultural, for example, a lack of shared understanding across sectors and a lack of willingness to share data caused by the competitive tendering culture
· financial and economic, for example, the cost of developing systems that can be used by different audiences
· legal and regulatory, for example, perceived restrictions in data protection law (GDPR) and a lack of agreed data sharing protocols through commissioning processes.
Our research uncovered examples where these barriers are being successfully overcome. For example, in Somerset Rethink Mental Illness led a partnership to deliver a new model of integrated care. They designed a bespoke data capture system which is accessible across partners and across sectors. It uses a blend of national metrics and coproduced patient-focused measures and integrates with NHS software. It enables a single plan for patients, across all providers, and one single source of data for all stakeholders.
Bromley Well, a cross-sector mental health partnership, built a bespoke database that was used by all partners. This enabled data to be captured and analysed holistically. Teams can collaborate across organisational boundaries, and wider intelligence on the client population can be captured. As a result, they identified the need for additional mental health support. The system enabled early identification and a timely response; in this instance a mental health specialist advisor was recruited to deliver a triage system. Without this, delays in detection and response would almost certainly have led to greater demand, and increased cost, at higher tiers of mental health service provision.
In response to their intelligence being mainly anecdotal, Community Action: MK built an online data collection tool that can easily provide real-time intelligence on community needs and feed into strategic planning. Better still, they are making the technical infrastructure free and accessible to anyone that wants to build a similar system.
With the creation of constituted integrated care systems in 2022, and national policy requiring a more substantial role for the VCSE sector in system governance, planning, and design, now is an ideal time for system leaders and NHS England policymakers to study and implement the recommendations in our report.