"We are able to access a unique set of skills from a wide range of individuals and groups. Developing a sustainable future is crucial and we aim to harness the power of our networks in order to achieve this"

CEO, Lorraine Foley

Across NHS and social care services, it has been an unusual and extremely challenging year. A global pandemic has taken hold, putting services under tremendous strain. Times have been similarly uncertain for the Professional Record Standards Body over the past 12 months, with our long-term funding options and business model under review. For both the wider health and care system and our own organisation, innovation has been the catalyst for survival, and we have all been learning to adapt in a changing landscape. 

From virtual consultations and ‘zoom’ sessions with loved ones, to home working and expanded use of 111 services, digital developments have never been more important. Even groups we have previously considered to be ‘tech-phobic’, such as some older people,  have been embracing different methods of communication, with new schemes emerging to engage people with the internet and keep them connected. In health and care this drive towards using technology is proving beneficial in many areas, but it has also brought to the forefront the urgent need for safe, standardised information and the heightened responsibility of professionals to ensure nobody is left behind as we embrace digital ways of working more fully. 

We are pleased to say that we agreed funding arrangements with NHSX that means that the PRSB is able to support these wider goals in the long run. In line with our plans for strategic development, a new sponsorship board has been established to oversee the partnership and work programme between the PRSB, NHSX, NHS Digital and NHS England/Improvement. As well as discussing our existing work, it will also give us the opportunity to give voice to the changing needs of our members. It will enable us to better respond to  the national strategic goals of NHS England and the devolved nations, as well as specific teams of health and care professionals. In time we hope to develop the sponsorship board with membership from all four nations, proving that we can work in partnership to deliver standardised information sharing across the UK. 

Our work this year 

In the past year we have contributed to several leading reports and investigations around safety in health and care. Last year saw the publication of the Paterson Inquiry report, which analysed system failings that led to the disgraced Dr Ian Paterson being able to perform unnecessary and dangerous surgeries on women. We gave evidence to support this inquiry, explaining how the use of standardised information could ensure that poor, negligent and even criminal practice could be prevented. We also made recommendations around standards to the Nuffield report, which outlined lessons for digitising the NHS and the National Audit Office report, which highlighted many of the challenges in achieving digitisation.  Here we were also able to reference our recommendations for the delivery of improved health and care services.

All of our work is grounded in our commitment to creating truly integrated services, which can better support the needs of people. This commitment to integration is underpinned by our shared care record standard, which was published last May. Its implementation across England will support the NHS’ wider mission to create a joined-up system of health and social care.

The need for integration has also been apparent in social care, an area of care which we have worked hard to champion. Over the past five months we have brought together social care workers, carers, health professionals and individuals who use services to develop a series of standards which will allow information to be shared seamlessly between social care and health services. We have undertaken important work with care homes, including admissions and discharges from hospital, areas which will hugely improve care and wellbeing in this setting. We have been working with organisations who are already piloting these standards, and we hope to see the adoption of the standards spread rapidly in the coming year.

Evidence of standards being successfully used in action has also come to the forefront in the past 12 months. In Leeds, NHS Digital successfully piloted the pharmacy standard, so that information about who was receiving flu vaccines at local pharmacies could be shared with GPs. This will be crucial information as we move into flu season and continue to battle the COVID19 pandemic, as it will mean GPs will be better able to identify patients who need a flu vaccine – an important step forward in managing the health of the population. Meanwhile we also visited Newcastle to discuss implementation of the outpatient standard and ‘please write to me’ campaign, which saw hospital doctors writing directly to people in line with our standard. Patients told us they found the new method of communication reassuring, and it helped them to feel more in control of their own health. 

At the start of the year, health and care services began gearing up to face what has become one of the greatest challenges in modern history – the COVID-19 crisis. In managing the pandemic, information has played, and will continue to play, a crucial role in supporting people through illness and rehabilitation, tracking cases and preventing outbreaks, and monitoring new treatments and vaccines. In the space of a few weeks, the PRSB was able to bring together a network of clinical experts to deliver guidance for health and care professionals on how clinical information for COVID-19-related care and treatment should be coded, in collaboration with NHS Digital and the Faculty of Clinical Informatics. This key piece of work will help professionals to manage the clinical information that improves patient care, as well as aid research and planning for the crisis.

The patient voice 

While the pandemic has driven innovation in care, it has also highlighted some of the areas that we need to address. This includes the way in which people interact with health and social care services, and the imbalance between the patient and professional voice. The PRSB has always incorporated patient voices into our work, but this year we were pleased to take this a step further, to engage more collaboratively with people using services. The citizen lead on our health and social care project, Sam Goncalves, has demonstrated exceptional leadership and truly advocated on behalf of people, helping us to connect with a wider group of people than ever before, notably vulnerable groups, which is opening up more avenues for the organisation to explore in future. 

Through our work to date, we have been able to access a unique set of talent and skills from a wide range of individuals and groups. Developing a sustainable future is crucial and we aim to harness the power of our networks in order to achieve this. In addition to continuing the important work we do in standards, we will be looking at other areas where our unique infrastructure can benefit health and care.  Covid-19 has highlighted the importance of using apps and other digital health technologies to help people self-manage symptoms and recover safely at home while being monitored locally.  In the past year PRSB has worked with NHSX on a standards framework for digital health technologies and we have used our learning and access to experts to carry out a successful review of a symptom-checker app. We believe there is greater scope for this work and are considering how we build on it for the future.

PRSB will continue to play an important role in supporting management of the pandemic in the coming year. In addition to reporting on the increased adoption of existing standards, we will be developing new standards around pathology, mental health care plans and other areas, as well as building on the work we have already completed. This will include crucial areas such as information sharing between local health records, supporting end of life care and expanding our work across social care. As an innovative body, we have been able to adapt quickly to change to ensure that we continue to prioritise people at the heart of health and care services. 

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The Professional Record Standards Body
7-14, CAN Borough, Great Dover St, London SE1 4YR


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