Health Data Research UK is today announcing the launch of innovative data initiatives bringing together 58 organisations across health and care, universities, charities, companies and patient groups to help address some of the most challenging health issues facing patients and the NHS. The initiatives aim to ensure patients receive the best possible care and services, benefiting some of the most vulnerable patient groups who are at greatest risk of COVID-19 by supporting the better use of data and analytical tools.

The initiatives include the addition of two new health data research partnerships to the Health Data Research UK network – one in the North of England and one in the South-West of England.  These new partnerships boost the depth and breadth of expertise in health data research and innovation and complement the existing outstanding talent in Health Data Research UK’s sites and hubs.

The partnership in the north of England (HDR UK North) will address major challenges in the management of frailty, an area of unmet clinical and social care need that currently affects 10% of people aged over 65, and 25-50% of people aged over 85 years and is likely to have a growing impact due to the ageing UK population.   HDR UK North will initially focus on key issues to support elderly people living with frailty, which include improved monitoring of residents in care homes to detect early signs of deterioration;  reducing the burden of use of anticholinergic medicines which are used to treat bladder, bowel and mood problems in older people and can result in side effects such as confusion and falls; and optimising the use of antibiotics for better care of frail elderly people.

Bringing expertise in data analytics and one of the largest linked health datasets in the UK, the South-West of England partnership (HDR UK South-West) builds on existing collaborations between NHS commissioners, primary, secondary, community and mental health care providers, local authorities, and academia and will address priority health and care challenges.  These include an improved system to detect patients at risk of deterioration at an early stage; and allowing more appropriate clinical management and reduce rates of unplanned admissions to intensive care.

Health Data Research UK is also announcing its collaboration with the Health Foundation. Working together, the two organisations will seek out opportunities to support the development of health analytics and data science improvements that can be implemented across the health and care system to benefit patients, the workforce and the public. This collaboration launches with four new projects that will help to deliver this aim. These include projects to ensure optimal management of patients in primary care; improve care and services for people with complex conditions such as diabetes and cystic fibrosis; and to support the treatment decisions clinicians and individual patients make by providing real time access to health care data from similar patients across the UK.

In combination, these exciting initiatives will provide a route to share learning, scale up solutions to health and care challenges across the UK and embed innovations into clinical practice through  responsible and ethical access to large-scale datasets, which is centrally informed by input from patients and the members of the public, to deliver more personalised care.

Caroline Cake, Chief Executive Officer at Health Data Research UK, said:

“We are delighted to welcome these two Better Care partnerships and four projects to HDR UK. They bring significant and demonstrable capabilities in using clinical data to transform health and care of patients. The importance of this capability is evident in the context of COVID-19 and supports our mission to unite the UK’s health data to enable discoveries that will improve people’s lives.”

Professor Simon Ball, Medical Director at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust and Research Director at Health Data Research UK, said:

“As healthcare professionals we make hundreds of decisions a week with our patients. In doing so we aim to decide what will work best for each individual. Electronic healthcare records offer the opportunity to combine patients’ data with information on best practice, so that we can reliably deliver high quality care in complex settings and pressured environments. Beyond that we can use the resulting data on patients’ outcomes and experience, to continuously learn from, and improve on, everyday practice in ways that are applicable across the NHS.”

Adam Steventon, Director of Data Analytics at the Health Foundation, said:

“We are excited to be partnering with HDR UK to demonstrate how data and data-driven technologies can be harnessed to improve health and care. Through this work we aim to show how data-driven tools have the potential to improve health and care for everyone.”

Angela Coulter, Chair of HDR UK Public Advisory Board, said:

“There has never been a better time to demonstrate to the public how sharing their data and using it safely and wisely to build knowledge is the key to better health and care services.”