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Using data to improve cancer care

Karen Seditas

11th July 2017

Karen Seditas, Programme Manager with the Innovative Healthcare Delivery Programme (IHDP), shares why using data effectively is key to driving improvements in cancer care.

We know that 1 in 2 people born after 1960 in the UK will be diagnosed with some form of cancer during their lifetime. Understanding more about what happens when people are diagnosed and treated for cancer is now more important than ever.

When a person is diagnosed with cancer, their journey through the NHS leaves a trail of information, or data, from diagnosis to treatment to recovery, providing a potentially rich and currently under-used information resource. 

The journey can tell us, for example, the time between an initial consultation (usually with a GP) and a diagnosis, when treatment started, what the treatment involved and how the patient responded, and how the patient managed when receiving treatment and following discharge. Knowing more about this journey will help the NHS in Scotland to refine diagnosis, select treatments and improve the experience for patients.

This is why the Innovative Healthcare Delivery Programme (IHDP) is working with the NHS, industry, academia and the third sector to develop a cancer ‘intelligence framework’ for Scotland. This will improve the ways that data is recorded, analysed and used, leading both to better healthcare systems and patient outcomes.

The framework aims to enable those involved in the care of cancer patients to have up to date information at their fingertips. At the same time, people living with cancer would be able to access information about their own condition to help them manage it better.

By having more detailed and timely information on cancer treatments and on how services are performing, Scotland will be able to

  • plan services more appropriately
  • identify and reduce any variations in treatment across Scotland
  • continuously improve services and outcomes for patients
  • ensure patient-centred care.

One of the initiatives we are involved in is the Cancer Innovation Challenge (CIC), which aims to inspire innovative technical solutions to help Scotland’s health system to be world leading for people with cancer. The Challenge will fund the development of innovative approaches to using NHS data to improve the patient journey, and to capture and use patient’s own views on their experiences and outcomes.

As well as the CIC, IHDP is a key partner in other initiatives which will contribute to Scotland’s cancer intelligence framework. For example, we are working with colleagues in NHS National Services Scotland (NSS) to transform the current Scottish Cancer Registry into a Scottish Cancer Registry and Intelligence Service, which will enable clinicians and patients to access the information they need, when they need it.

With Public Health England, we are developing ways of comparing Scotland’s radiotherapy data with other UK nations to support learning and improvement. We have supported the exploration of innovative technology to view, compare and improve information on chemotherapy treatments. With colleagues across Scotland, we are facilitating national consensus over ways of producing summaries of cancer patients’ treatment and discussing treatment across healthcare teams, to ensure efficient and effective clinical conversations.

Across all of these areas, we are supporting safe, secure and meaningful ways of using data to improve outcomes for those living with cancer.  We believe that harnessing the power of data to unlock NHS Scotland’s rich data assets will deliver value rapidly to patients, healthcare professionals, and the wider NHS.

To find out more, join our mailing list by emailing ihdp [at] (subject: Join%20mailing%20list)


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