AHPs: data capture is crucial

Allied health professionals are ideally placed to address some key challenges facing health and social care, but linking up data across sectors is vital.

Blog post

Published: 01/12/2014

I was appointed by NHS England in September 2014 as Chief Allied Health Professions Officer. Throughout my career in the NHS I have welcomed independent scrutiny of health services, so was pleased to be invited by the Nuffield Trust and the Health Foundation to chair a QualityWatch roundtable discussion focused on how we can measure the quality of care delivered by allied health professionals (AHPs).

While the report is retrospective, it suggests that AHPs are not adequately represented in or by many of the national quality measures which systematically capture data relating to the activities of medical or nursing colleagues. This results in an inappropriate impression of the activities of AHPs.

Care spanning many sectors

Most striking for me is the fact that, given the nature and scope of their work, AHPs are ideally placed to address some of the key challenges facing the health and care sectors. As we see in the report, their publicly funded employment already spans the NHS, local government (social care and education), housing, third sector and independent practice. There is now a real opportunity to develop and build measures across sectors that reflect both the pattern of actual service delivery for patients and the outcomes AHPs achieve for them.

To ensure there is an appropriate AHP workforce to continue to supply this diversity of sectors (which reflect patient choice) will also require increasing sophistication of modelling and data capture during workforce planning on a local and national basis.

Linking data across services

As a professional leader who is a commissioner, I am interested in evidencing clinical interventions which give positive outcomes for populations. At the seminar, paramedic Sophie Clark described an ongoing project using non-identifiable patient markers to match London Ambulance Service records to those of hospital A&E departments, in order to understand the outcomes of patient interventions provided by paramedics. This, to me, reinforced the QualityWatch report’s message that “data from individual professional encounters should not be kept in isolated datasets”.

Having recently taken on the chair of National Allied Health Professions Informatics Strategic Taskforce, I am supported by the AHP professional bodies in ensuring that the findings of the report are formally reviewed by that group as it considers its forthcoming work programme.