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RDS welcomes national data strategy to support health and social care

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Research Data Scotland

24 Feb 2023

Research Data Scotland (RDS) is tasked with delivering support for research and innovation and ethical approaches to data, alongside other organisations.

The Data Strategy for Health and Social Care is the first of its kind in Scotland and is designed to help make better use of the data, to improve access to the data, and to ensure a strong focus on addressing known gaps and weaknesses in how data is collected, shared and analysed to improve health outcomes – in a secure, transparent and ethical manner.

The Data Strategy is a commitment of the wider Care in the Digital Age strategy, updated in October 2021, and its supporting Delivery Plan, published in November 2022.

RDS will play a role alongside other larger organisations, like NHS Research Scotland and Public Health Scotland, to deliver support for research and innovation. In particular, RDS is mentioned in the delivery plan for improving access to social and healthcare data through the Researcher Access Service, which will be the end-to-end pathway for researchers to apply for and get access to data for research. The service intends to provide a streamlined, lawful, fair and safe access and linkage of data for the public good.

Other activities also include:

  • Exploring how to increase and then seek to expand the population and data coverage of data safe havens – also known as Trusted Research Environments - to support data-driven research and innovation at greater speed and scale.
  • Clarifying the terms for access and use of data for industry projects including the approval and controlled access pathways to ensure ethical use in the public interest.
  • Supporting collaborative data-driven research and innovation across the UK and internationally where this has public benefits for Scotland, there is suitable agreement and it is ethical to do so.

In regards, to ethical approaches to data, RDS is working with partner organisations to support the provision of research and evidence needed to ensure equitable care across the population. The Protected Characteristics Linkage Dataset, (read this blog for background) will improve the ability of service providers and researchers to study issues of access to, and outcomes from, the health and social care services for people with different protected characteristics. 

Other priority areas of action from the strategy include:  

  • Data access
  • Talent culture 
  • Protecting and sharing data 
  • Technology and infrastructure
  • Information standards and interoperability, and
  • Creating insights from data.

Professor Roger Halliday, CEO of RDS, said: "An ethical and person-centred approach, which maintains public trust and confidence is great to see in Scotland’s first dedicated data strategy for health and social care.  

"I’m delighted that RDS can play a role in supporting some of the delivery enhancing access to data and improving outcomes for the people of Scotland."

Read Professor Halliday’s blog on how public sector data can provide better insights and be used to improve social and healthcare outcomes.  

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