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Delivering on Scotland’s Health and Social Care Data Strategy

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Blog posts

Roger Halliday

29 Apr 2024

A year on from welcoming the national data strategy to support health and social care, Research Data Scotland’s CEO Professor Roger Halliday reflects on the progress so far, and what comes next.

Since being created by Scottish Government in 2021, Research Data Scotland (RDS) has been hard at work establishing ourselves and building key relationships to enable better access to public sector data – including health and social care data.

This is central to our vision to advance health and social wellbeing in Scotland by simplifying and speeding up access to data for research, resulting in better evidence for policymaking and improved services for Scottish citizens.

Unlocking the potential of Scotland’s data

When it was published last year, it was great to see Scotland’s Data Strategy for Health and Social Care recognise the power of using existing data for research, while acknowledging that access to this data must be improved for researchers and policymakers.

This is where RDS’s role comes in, helping to deliver this strategy alongside other organisations such as NHS Research Scotland and Public Health Scotland.

Research Data Scotland has taken a significant first step towards the goal of a simplified process with the initial launch of our Researcher Access Service, meeting one of the deliverables from the Data Strategy.

“Research Data Scotland has taken a significant first step towards the goal of a simplified process...”

Professor Roger Halliday, CEO of Research Data Scotland

Our new Researcher Access Service

Co-developed in partnership with the electronic Data Research and Innovation Service (eDRIS), which is part of Public Health Scotland, the Researcher Access Service is the first digitised end-to-end pathway for researchers to apply for and get access to Scottish public sector data for research. The service's intention is to provide streamlined, lawful, fair, and safe access to data for the public good.

With phase one launched in April 2024, our team will continue to work on the Researcher Access Service to further its capabilities. This includes improvements coming later this year that will change the way data is governed and curated, further improving speed and reducing complexity.

We’ll also be widening the range of data available for research through the service, working with researchers and users to understand which datasets could provide the most valuable insights, and collaborating with partner organisations to enable secure access to these datasets via the Researcher Access Service.

User engagement has been a crucial part of the design and delivery of phase one, and consultation will be ongoing as we continue to grow the service. If you’d like to get involved and help shape the service as it develops, please sign up to our engagement contact list.

Initial launch and first projects

For phase one of the Researcher Access Service, there are nine datasets available. These include some of Public Health Scotland’s most frequently requested datasets including  births, deaths, maternity inpatient and day cases, mental health inpatient and day cases, accident and emergency, and prescribing.

Some of the first researchers using this new service are the awardees of our Accelerator Awards. In early 2024, RDS invited applications for a £50,000 total grant fund for non-commercial organisations to deliver research projects through the new Researcher Access Service. Funding these projects will help to cement this new digitised pathway and provide valuable user feedback to inform and shape the future of the service. Research Data Scotland hope that the successful Accelerator Awardees will become key advocates for data access improvements in Scotland that maximise public benefit.

“RDS hope that the successful Accelerator Awardees will become key advocates for data access improvements in Scotland that maximise public benefit.”

Professor Roger Halliday, CEO of Research Data Scotland

Safe Haven Charter

There is significant expertise and data within Scotland’s Regional Safe Havens, with the potential to amplify this by connecting the data we have across Scotland. This requires common approaches across the network to build and embed trust. Research Data Scotland has built strong relationships with experts across our Regional Safe Havens, and is now working with them on a Safe Haven Charter. The Safe Haven Charter will provide aligned standards – paving the way to joined up data across the country that will benefit people who live in Scotland.

By making use of the skills and support from a range of organisations across Scotland, we’re starting to deliver on the ambition of Scottish Government’s Data Strategy for Health and Social Care. We’re excited for the changes yet to come that will continue to improve the ways Scottish data is used in research to save time, money and lives.

Researcher Access Service Datasets

Find datasets and variables available through the Researcher Access Service Approval Pathway.

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Eilidh Guthrie and Jenny Johnston

10 Apr 2024

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