Connecting data across public services in Bath & North East Somerset
A research partnership between the Institute for Policy Research (IPR), Bath & North East Somerset Council, and the local Clinical Commissioning Group.
This research project explores the potential for connected data to inform citizen-focused local policy and practice. The objective of the research is to realise the benefits of connected ‘big data’ by generating new insights into public need and service effectiveness and developing an evidence-base to inform policy and practice innovation.
There is a great deal of expectation attached to the promise of ‘big data’ to illuminate patterns and trends in human interaction and transaction, and inform policy and practice decisions. Alongside this the importance of sturdy information governance protocols and procedures has become ever more pertinent, as instances of highly visible data security breaches amplify public and professional perceptions of risk associated with sharing and linking data. At the same time open data is seen to offer a vital mechanism for enhancing the transparency and accountability of governments and empowering engagement with public policies. These agendas do not always sit in easy alignment with each other, and tension and disjunctions between them are realised acutely where the use of big data in the policy making process is practiced at the local level.
Since April 2014, Bath and North East Somerset (B&NES) Council, NHS B&NES Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and an interdisciplinary team at the University of Bath Institute for Policy Research (IPR) have been involved in a co-produced research project to explore the potential for connected data to inform local policy debate and decision making. Funded by a Transformation Challenge Award, the principle aims of the project are to create, pilot and evaluate a process to change the culture of information sharing across public services; identify mechanisms (technologies and processes) for safely linking data; and realise the benefits of big data by generating new insights into public need and service effectiveness to guide policy and practice development.
The approach that this project develops is being piloted through application to current number of policy priorities for the Council and the CCG; starting with diabetes care services and the financial wellbeing of B&NES residents. The findings of the project have contributed to the development of policy and practice and to our understanding of the processes and techniques that realise the benefits of big data for local government.