NHS director: Sack me if there isn’t a data revolution in healthcare

The national director for patients and information on the NHS Commissioning Board, Tim Kelsey, has said that he is willing to put his job on the line if the UK’s healthcare system doesn’t undergo a data revolution by next year.

Speaking at a Reform conference on open government and transparency in London this week, Kelsey said that the NHS’ data revolution will begin from April next year.

He said: “We are going to have a data revolution in healthcare, mark my words. From next April we will see routine flows of data from primary and secondary care – as a start.

“At the moment we cannot answer basic questions about whether or not we have a good or bad GP, or whether that GP is the right one for us. That will stop from April. We will finally have data which we can make fantastic services with.”

He went as far to say: “I think anybody who does my job, me included, should be fired if we don’t start making some of these things really happen.”

Kelsey recently joined the NHS Commissioning Board after a stint at the Cabinet Office as its transparency director.

He added that as of next year users will also be encouraged to provide feedback on hospital services online.

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The government is also planning to launch a new service, which will be either ‘low cost or free’, to encourage people to work with datasets being released by the NHS.

“There is an incredibly important dynamic relationship that needs to exist between the geeks and the data. We are going to set up Code for Health, which is completely ripping off the US’ Code for America, but is an offer to anybody – doctor, nurse, patient, or the public – to be able to learn how to do programming so that you can engage with the data that we are producing,” said Kelsey.

Computerworld UK recently revealed that Kelsey was in discussions with the US government about how best to open up its public data for re-use.

Finally, Kelsey warned that the NHS is running out of examples of how open data can drive better services, innovation and create money in the private sector.

“The reason I took the job in the NHS is that we are running out of stories. I genuinely feel that anyone who cares about this needs to stop talking about it and go and take a job in education, transport, or wherever, and actually make it happen,” he said.

“There is a real risk that we can all see the principles, but the stories just don’t follow us quickly enough. These stories aren’t just to persuade governments to do stuff, but also to explain to businesses what the business model is.

“Why should corporates care about transparency? These arguments just haven’t been made yet. Unless more people get out and do it we are going to run out of stories.”