National adult care intelligence service on the cards

Government and council leaders plan to launch an adult social care “intelligence service” next year to provide practitioners in England with tailored information to support decision-making and service planning.

The National Adult Social Care Intelligence Service (Nascis) would harness the wealth of data already gathered by councils through electronic care management systems to help authorities benchmark themselves against each other.

Much of this information remains untapped, apart from mandatory data collected by central government for performance management.

The NHS Information Centre (NHS IC) – a specialist health authority that collects and publishes information on health and social care – is appointing a project team to develop Nascis and would be expected to provide the service. However, it would also be governed by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, to ensure council input, and the Department of Health.

Robert Lake (pictured, right), interim director of adult social care at the NHS IC, said he wanted Nascis to be in place by April 2009, and to be a service for frontline practitioners as well as directors and council information officers.

He added: “It’s about improving practice at the frontline instead of being a rather distant statistical factory. We’ve got to produce stuff that people want.”

David Johnstone, who has been leading on the project for Adass, said: “We are massively data rich in adult social care but we don’t turn that information into intelligence for planning.”

He said information currently collected from councils was “very limited and centrally driven”, and that it was important that Nascis was “led by local authorities”. He said it would enable authorities to find out information such as “what the differences are in trends for older people with mental health problems in the North East compared to Lincolnshire, say”.

Johnstone said the key challenges in setting up Nascis included ensuring the compatability of the different IT systems used by councils and that data was defined in a standardised way across the country.

More information

Nascis functions

• Collect data required by government from councils and other information on a voluntary basis.

• Pool adult social care data analysis expertise.

• Provide accessible information for councils, including benchmarking areas against each other locally, regionally and nationally.

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