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Lack of NHS data 'holding back service improvement' 

"Providing the right information can lead to major leaps in quality and productivity ."

Steve Black, PA Healthcare and Information expert

A severe lack of national-level data about the effectiveness of care in certain areas of the NHS is hindering efforts to improve quality and productivity, according to a new report.

The study, which was compiled by a sub-group of the Department of Health's National Quality Board, showed that there is little or no UK information on services that collectively account for around 20% of annual NHS budgets, Health Service Journal reports.

It added that there is no available nationwide data on the quality of community services, which accounts for £10 billion of spending a year. Furthermore, the report said that there are "significant obstacles" to obtaining figures on primary care. The group warned that the challenges in obtaining reliable information on the effectiveness of some NHS care could delay the delivery of better services for "many years".

"These challenges are not insurmountable, but not addressing them will have a detrimental effect on the NHS's potential to improve both quality and productivity," the report said.

Professor David Haslam, the sub-group's chair and former president of the Royal College of GPs, is confident that now the problem has been "expressed in simple language", solutions can be developed to tackle it. Other members of the full National Quality Board include chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson, NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh and president of the Royal College of Physicians Sir Ian Gilmore.

Steve Black, PA Consulting Group Healthcare and Information expert says: "Collecting and using information effectively is essential for organisations that want to improve the quality and productivity of what they do over time. The NHS is notoriously poor in its use of information. Usually the problem is making sense of the mountain of information that is currently collected. In primary care the problem is different: most of the information that could be used to improve services is never collected in the first place. We know from our other work in the NHS (e.g. for A&E departments) that providing the right information can lead to major leaps in quality and productivity, so it is good that this problem is now being recognised in Primary Care."

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