Harness the value of NHS data as part of plans to deliver long-term sustainability

18th June 2018 about a 3 minute read

The Prime Minister has announced an average 3.4% per annum increase in funding as part of a multi-year settlement for NHS England – an additional £20bn each year by 2023-24.

The increase in NHS spending is widely expected to be funded from additional borrowing and/or tax revenues – the scale and scope of which will be confirmed by the Government in due course – but it will take more than this to deliver long-term sustainability for our health and care services.

The announcement falls short of calls for a settlement which would also provide for public health, workforce training and much-need capital investment. It also raises questions about the scope for Government to deliver parity of esteem for mental health services. Crucially, it does not address the urgent need to reform adult social care, which the Prime Minister reiterated would be the subject of a Green Paper in due course.

Politicians from all parties need to recognise that there is an alternative to the projected shortfall in funding – we need a national conversation to explore how each of us can make a unique contribution to help overcome it.

In his Autumn Statement, the Chancellor will update Parliament on the ‘balance sheet review’ – a deep dive into what the country owns and owes – and highlight commercial prospects with an emphasis upon ‘intangible assets’. Philip Aldrick, Economics Editor of The Times, has called upon the Government to value NHS data integral to this process, saying:

“What kind of balance sheet review ignores so valuable an asset? Attach a price and the data might not only help pay for the NHS but save more lives in the process.” [1]
Now is the time for the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to engage the public about placing NHS data assets, worth an estimated £10bn, on its balance sheet with a view to seeding a Sovereign Health Fund.

The Government is rightly concerned to maintain public trust given recent scandals involving personal data, and there must be an acknowledgement that NHS data assets belong to us all, but we urgently need to adopt a commercial mindset as the NHS proceeds to celebrate its 70th birthday and leverage ‘our data’ to help sustain ‘our NHS’.

There are clear economic as well as political limits to a strategy that is wholly reliant upon increases in taxation and borrowing. A Sovereign Health Fund, operated in a similar way to Norway’s Sovereign Wealth Fund, could help off-set the projected increases in taxation needed to sustain the NHS into the future.”

More funding for the NHS is welcome news, but we should also remember that adult social care provision faces a cliff-edge without a long-term plan. Governments of all political colours have wrestled with how to develop a sustainable long-term funding plan for the NHS – adult social care funding should be at the forefront of Ministers’ minds too. I would urge the government to think seriously about harnessing the value of NHS data. It could boost the country’s balance sheet and provide the NHS with an additional source of funding to help deliver sustainable provision for decades to come Greg Allen, Chief Executive, Future Care Capital