It’s important to the health service, but the work of this body is often unnoticed. Katie Baldwin reports.
Did you know that 80 mothers gave birth in West Yorkshire on Christmas Day last year?
Or that there were 14 hospital admissions for falls from skates or skis in December 2013.
For around 1,190 people in the region, their Christmas Day was overshadowed by a visit to an A&E unit.
These figures are just some of the multitude of statistics collected by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), the national provider of information, data and IT systems for health and social care.
Their national base is in Leeds with 2,500 staff working from four sites in the city centre.
And though their work may go unnoticed by most users of the health service, the HSCIC has a vital role to play. The organisation supports the monitoring of care provided by the NHS for patients by collecting figures about most aspects of its work, from how many people are admitted to hospital with a massive range of conditions to the proportion of youngsters who are overweight or obese, and from the number of children seeing an NHS dentist each year to how many people receive heart operations.
With the performance of the NHS being of massive interest to the public and politically – as has recently been shown in the latest figures about how hospital trusts were performing in respect of the national target to treat or admit 95 per cent of patients who go to A&E within four hours – it’s a hugely important way of understanding how the NHS works and how it can improve.
Without good information, the health and social care service would not be able to plan effectively for additional demands such as in winter, or identify local health issues and provide care to those who really need it.
The HSCIC says the publication of data is important too – so the public feel empowered with facts at their fingertips to engage in debate.
And among the multitude of national statistics, the HSCIC can also break down the figures to work out exactly what is happening in any given area, and when.
So its figures show that in December 2013, there were 60,350 A&E attendances in West Yorkshire, with a peak of 2,210 on December 15.
However collecting statistics is just one side of the HSCIC’s work. It also sets up and manages national IT systems which patients may well never see, but which are also crucial.
Rob Shaw, director of operations and assurance, said: “When people go to GP surgeries, pharmacies or NHS clinics, we provide a number of services that are widely used across the NHS.
“Because the NHS is reliant on them, we have got to make sure they are always available.”
The organisation works with private sector organisations who provide systems to manage them and ensure they work efficiently.
“This has a direct impact on enabling patient care and treatment,” he added.
In addition, HSCIC has also recently developed a national programme which enables different systems to communicate with each other. The National Spine handles a staggering amount of data, holding over 500m records and documents and 6bn messages every year.
“That’s the type of service we are developing in-house,” Rob added.
Their work is also changing focus to encompass wellbeing and the prevention of ill-health, in line with the general moves within the NHS as it adapts to meet the demands of an aging population.
This will include looking at the use of digital technologies such as apps and wearable technologies.
The role of HSCIC, Rob says, is only set to get bigger and in light of that, they are keen to let people working in a variety of fields that there may be opportunities for them with the organisation.
“We do the data work, system delivery, then we have got the standard back office functions.
“We are an organisation which is expanding in terms of being asked to take on more and we are really keen to get people in who will add value to our organisation.”
* Jobs at the HSCIC are advertised via www.jobs.nhs.uk
In December 2013, there were 19 hospital admissions in West Yorkshire due to slips, trips and stumbles on ice and snow, 55 for exposure to the cold and seven for frostbite.
Four admissions were because of patients taking too much cold medication and traditional Christmas activities proved dangerous.
There were over 90 admissions for injuries caused by hot food or drink and 28 for having contact with plants, thorns, spines or sharp leaves.