Care data

Care Data Matters is a report published in February 2023 highlighting the importance of data in social care to support a more streamlined and efficient provision of care across the health and social care space. Historically, social care has lagged health in terms of the usability of data. Primarily, this is down to the paper-based legacy of social care. To argue Social Care is lacking data would be an arbitrary point, as social care has always been data rich. It is however true that this data has been underutilised and impractically accessible as it tends to be stored on paper and locked away within filing cabinets.

This report sets out to compliment the governments plans to digitise the sector (with only around 50% of social care providers currently on digitised care management systems). It breaks the mission down into 5 chapters:

    • Chapter 1: Our vision for adult social care
    • Chapter 2: The current data collection landscape and its limitations
    • Chapter 3: The sector’s data needs
    • Chapter4: Improving adult social care data
    • Chapter 5: Making our vision a reality

In this article, we will summarise each of these chapters to provide a quick and easy reference to understanding the report’s content.

Chapter 1: Our vision for adult social care.

The Government’s mission is to streamline current processes and built upon existing limitations of data in social care. With a target in place of 80% digitisation of care records by March 2024, the Department of Health and Social Care confirmed at the TSA iTEC conference (March 2023) that only around 50% of the sector is currently digitised. Meaning there is a huge chasm to bridge.

The first point in this chapter looks at how we are currently capturing data to ensure it meets the current and future needs of the sector. If a care provider is still operating on paper-based care plans/care management systems, digitisation is a good place to start. Organisations such as Digital Social Care can be a great support for care providers along their digital journey, offering resources and support across a plethora of digital factors.

It is also important to look at the capability of technology within social care. It is not just a case of removing paperwork. It is about ensuring we can turn data into insights. This means strong reporting, interoperability and collaboration between health and social care. The overriding theme of this report touches on the improved collaboration between health and social care.

To help illustrate the steps required to meet the Department of Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) objectives, they have published the below roadmap to include key milestones:

Screenshot 2023 03 30 at 2.09.01 pm

This is a useful and important figure to understand the fundamental vision for adult social care as seen by the DHSC.

Chapter 2: The current data collection landscape and its limitations.

As mentioned earlier in this article, the amount of existing data in social care is vast. But the fragmented nature of how it is captured and stored means the ability to draw insights is hugely limited.

There are over 50 national data collections and many local and regional data collections to support a vast array of uses, such as quality and risk monitoring, understanding capacity, identifying areas of improvement and supporting local authorities and regulators in meeting their statutory duties.
The issue here, however, is that the systems are very fragmented and lack standardisation. Within the report, it goes on to highlight these limitations in more detail, which include:

Limited digitisation

    • Resulting in a burden on care providers and commissioners when it comes to managing and sharing data, drawing insights and gaining valuable indicators which otherwise could be used to improve the quality of care.

Lack of data availability

    • Data in social care is often duplicated. This is the nature of paper-based systems and the lack of digital reporting. This means it is difficult for the right data to be seen by the right people, at the right time. Often resulting in huge inefficiencies.

Duplication of data

    • Data is often collected multiple times by different organisations at varying frequencies to meet their respective needs. This relies on a lot of time by care providers, meaning less time is available to provide care – this issue is further exacerbated in the light of the ongoing workforce crisis.

Lack of standardisation

    • Social care is delivered in many ways, across many different regions which results in the lack of a single way of working. This can, and often does, result in inconsistencies across the nation.

Data gaps

    • Data gaps exist across social care. This means there can be a lack of appropriate and reliable information to enhance informed decision making concerning the care that is delivered.

Chapter 3: The sector’s data needs.

The overwhelming theme in this chapter is that the sector’s data need will be everchanging and flexibility needs to be a built-in feature of digital care systems moving forwards. The below figure highlights the cyclical nature of how the DHSC wants digital systems to operate moving forwards. This will mean an evolutionary approach to systems, rather than a system in which technologies become outdated and full reimplementation of platforms takes place. This will minimise the potential disruption to care providers and incorporate an element of future proofing into the process.

Screenshot 2023 03 30 at 2.08.23 pm

Collaboration between government, providers, commissioners, regulators and many other stakeholder is in place to support the understanding of the sectors data needs. This is something which is hugely important as the sector drives towards its 2024 digitisation goals, however this is something which needs to remain in place moving forwards to enable an organic evolution of the way the sector utilises data effectively.

Chapter 4: Improving adult social care data.

Surveys concerning the social care workforce has played a central role in the recommendations and milestones set out in the chapter. Focus has been given to care givers work-related quality of life. This is of particular value as it is central to an organisation’s productivity. This chapter has a vast scope, however for the sake of clarity, here we will focus more specifically on the improvement of adult social care data through digital social care records.

Digital social care records have a profound impact on the quality of care that a provider can give to their service user. Fundamentally, there are two main factors for this: productivity and access to information.

Paper-based or manual systems are time consuming. This is made worse by the ongoing struggle to recruit and retain care givers. It is therefore vital that less time is spent on administrative tasks and more time spent caring for residents and service users. This cannot, however, come at the cost of quality data supporting informed decision making. It therefore puts emphasis on the requirement for intuitive point-of-care solutions to capture vital information in a timely manner.

Paper-based systems also bring additional risk of errors due to the manual handling required and duplication of data entry. These can be addressed through automated electronic systems and integrations between platforms where available.

The focus on access to information also feeds hand in hand with the above point, again going back to the data vs. insights discussion. Not only will it lead to more actionable learnings relating to individuals needs, but it will better support, or rather create, the synergy required between health and social care.

To go about this, the DHSC are:

    • Delivering funding to the ICSs to support digital adoption through the digital transformation fund
    • Expanding the use of GP Connect to improve accessibility of health data
    • Establishing the Minimum Operational Data Set (MODS) to support standardisation of digital social care records
    • Collecting provider level data through DSCR Minimum Dataset for Reporting.

Whilst these are the fundamentals, they will be built on throughout this journey.

Chapter 5: Making our vision a reality

The planning of such a project is huge, but implementing it successfully is even more of a gargantuan task. In achieving this, the DHSC has laid out the following commitments:

    • data will be collected once and made available to those who need it, to avoid national and local government collecting the same data separately from care providers, unpaid carers and those who access care and support
    • data will routinely be shared back with data suppliers wherever possible, in an accessible manner appropriate to the needs of different data users for additional insights and benchmarking purposes
    • the option for automated data collection methods as an alternative to manual collection will be available wherever possible, to minimise the data collection burdens on data suppliers
    • frequency of data collection will be the minimum needed to meet data needs
    • data collections will be based on data already held by a data supplier, wherever possible, and where new or amended data is required, it will be kept to a minimum
    • feedback will be sought from relevant stakeholders wherever possible, prior to finalising the details of new or amending existing collections
    • the collection of very granular data will be kept to a minimum where such data is not held in digital format and therefore would present a significant burden on providers to submit manually. If individual level data is being collected, providers will not be expected to bear the burden of anonymising or pseudo-anonymising such data, rather this will be considered when identifying an appropriate data collection mechanism
    • information will be processed and made available safely and securely, and only processed in accordance with the legal framework, including data protection legislation, with respect for people’s privacy and with due regard to their consent. Reasons for providing access to data will be transparent, open, and understood
    • access to data for research and analysis will be made available through SDEs, which will ensure that the highest standards of security, privacy and transparency are upheld
    • changes to new and existing data collections will be reviewed and approved by the relevant governance structures, to ensure changes are appropriate and proportionate

What’s next?

The DHSC has committed to the below actions to see this framework through to fruition. These are:

  • continue to work in partnership with stakeholders across the sector, including local government, care providers, people who draw on care and support and unpaid carers and other organisations to develop and design the initiatives set out in this framework, including reviewing existing data collections
  • work across government, including with NHSE and other government departments, to seek ways to maximise the sharing of existing and new data
  • further develop our commitments and do so openly, involving stakeholders through regular engagement

It has also committed to publishing the framework in full by the end of 2023.


In summary, this is an important step in the right direction in supporting the sector in its digital journey and providing a view of how health and social care operate in a joined up way. The COVID-19 pandemic has proven that the sector and government have the ability to work at pace on digitisation. There are the skills and knowledge to achieve this. It does however come down to the level of support the sector is given. There are long standing challenges this sector has faced for many years, and the government need to acknowledge this in its approach to ensure providers and local authorities have the resources to meet their obligations laid out in the ‘care data matters’ report.

If you wish to read the full report, it can be found here.

Don't miss out!
Sign up to receive the latest news and updates from PainChek
Invalid email address