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The Worcestershire Office of Data Analytics (WODA) is a virtual hub, where in-house analysts within each applicable agency have supported the delivery of pilots. Since its establishment last year, WODA has unveiled a number of crucial blockers to data sharing across the region and is now working on solutions to overcome them and support a new culture of sharing in a legal, safe and ethical way.

Origins and funding

Like many other Councils in the UK, Worcestershire is experiencing an unprecedented increase in local demand generated by complex social problems. This is unfortunately associated with increasingly difficult financial cuts that have forced the local public sector agencies to explore innovative solutions to counteract these problems.

WODA was therefore created in 2017 by the Worcestershire Partnership Executive Group (PEG) to prove the operational benefits of a multi-agency data sharing approach to public services delivery. The initiative has had a strong buy-in across the region so far: interviews conducted with over fifty operational and strategic officers across its public sector partners have proven the strong desire for data sharing and exploration of the opportunities to better target intervention services in the partnership.

Vision and objectives

"Worcestershire will use ‘data as an asset’ to transform our services for the benefit of our residents and businesses and in doing so empower our residents, enhance economic growth and connect our communities." WODA (2018).

After realising that both the level of and accessibility to information held by partners varies substantially across the region, the Worcestershire partners have realised that much can be done by linking-up and sharing critical data across organisations. The ODA will therefore act as a hub for multi-agency sharing supporting the cultural change and key transformation programmes aimed at joining the dots, standardise information sharing protocols and target inefficiencies in the current service delivery.

Governance

The PEG (Partnership Executive Group), with chief executive level members from all Worcestershire public sector organisations and representatives of the voluntary sector and other national bodies, have ultimate oversight of the programme, from influencing strategy to signing-off on funding and investments. A WODA Programme Group, chaired by a PEG member and comprised of senior leaders from each partner agency, has been established to act as a robust steering group for the identification and prioritisation of multi-agency requirements.

The WODA Information Governance Group is comprised of managers and officers from each partner organisation. It provides a delivery vehicle for GDPR compliant information sharing agreements in support of WODA use cases.

The Chief Data Officer chairs the WODA Information Governance Group and works with business and technical resources across the Worcestershire agencies to deliver solutions for the benefit of residents and businesses. The CDO is accountable for the overall performance of WODA.

Team structure

The chief data officer was appointed to WODA in September 2017 to deliver the pilots, test and mature WODA ways of working and create a high-level business case for change. From April 2018 onwards, a small team (3.0 FTE) has been recruited to deliver a mix of project management, business analysis, information management, and data science skills. Most of the team are part-time and also members of the partner agencies, which helps bring in practical knowledge of how to get things done across Worcestershire. Support from existing in-house individuals or teams is still required for the delivery of some solutions.

Working practices

Prior to the appointment of the chief data officer, a data sharing roadmap was commissioned and delivered with the support of KPMG. All partners across the region have signed off a data sharing charter and roadmap and have committed to deliver cultural and systematic change in approaching data sharing across the county. Collectively, they will work from a default premise of the 'duty to share' data being equal to the 'duty to protect' it.

The roadmap, apart from setting out the current state of data sharing across partners, suggests the Information Sharing Gateway (ISG) as preferred online platform to store data sharing agreements and has a recommendation to test enhanced data sharing agreements through small-scale projects (i.e. pilot use cases).

Data projects

Pilots were chosen by PEG prioritising six use cases from a shortlist of ideas generated by representatives from each agency.

The pilot use cases were asked to prove three non-financial benefits:

  • Is it possible to link systems?
  • Does data sharing have a positive impact on vulnerability?
  • Does data sharing provide benefits across the breadth and
    variety of Worcestershire public services?

While most of these pilots have focused on proving the benefits of data sharing across agencies, some bespoke data sharing products have been built for three of the six use cases.

Patient flows from acute care to other services.

Problem: This use case aimed at supporting the Patient Flow Centre (PFC) and Acute Trust to organise patient care packages by strengthening current information flows between different organisations.

Before then, there was no integration of health and social care systems to support the assessment, discharge and withdrawal (ADW) of a patient from acute care into other social care settings.

Problems included reliance on manual systems, lack of real-time data sharing, complex discharge processes, delayed transfers of care, lack of clarity on capacity and poor allocation of resources.

Solution: Through linking data from county council and acute hospital sources, a one-point-of-access to patient and management information is operational after being tested with a small cohort of users.

Outcome and future development: From March to August, there is a reduction of 2.7 days for the referral to discharge pathway. Using average bed day cost for 2015/16 of £306 per day, this equates to cost avoidance of £153,000 per month. This excludes any other positive impacts such as reduced social care costs due to higher likelihood of people retaining independence after less days in hospital, and lost productivity to Worcestershire businesses

The NHS has also awarded an additional grant of £163,000 to adopt national standards for ADW, this project therefore constitutes the first step in developing a wider system of information sharing across health and social care organisations throughout Worcestershire.

Domestic violence

Problem: The police share recorded incidents of domestic abuse daily with partners through daily incident reports, but no details are available on previous history of abuse.

The inability to take intelligence-led approaches to both prevention and triage of
domestic violence cases not only resulted in missed opportunities for identifying and supporting recurrent victims, but also in considerable amounts of time spent by practitioners to reconstruct previous histories of abuse through unnecessarily lengthy triage meetings (due to lack of available data) and often duplicating research efforts.

Solution: A multi-agency platform has been delivered in conjunction with the WCC digital team to allow timely sharing of information across more than eight agencies. This has now a direct integration with social care information and in future will also have direct integration opportunities with West Mercia Police in additional areas, such as for the Multi-agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH), Child Exploitation and Missing People.

Outcome and future development: This pilot had value through demonstrating significant improvements to the data quality on domestic violence victims, and through the reduction of duplications of data into various systems.

Domestic violence triage meeting attendees are, therefore, now equipped with stronger contextual understanding of domestic violence incidents that allow quicker identification and triage of repeat offenders and victims in daily meetings. Increased availability and quality of data have also significantly reduced the length of triage meetings and demands on staff; it has allowed a more structured and consistent access to partner information, and represents the first step to prioritising high-risk domestic abuse cases as key word flags have been added to referrals from the Harm Assessment Unit.

Business intelligence register

Problem: although there has been a lot of attention at the national level on reaching economic growth through local businesses support, local authorities and local enterprise partnerships do not have shared access to local business data, such as turnover or employment size. This lack of information makes it difficult to target specific interventions.

Solution: opportunities to establish a stronger working connection with HMRC and the Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership were identified through liaising with the Scale Up Institute to build a register of business intelligence data.

Outcome and future development: the project did not go ahead because WODA and partners have been unable to gain enough traction with central government to get any short-to-medium term benefits from this initiative. However, as a result of this pilot a technical option to allow business data to be integrated in the local resilience solution has been delivered.

Work plans for the future

Currently focused on building a business case for establishing the ODA permanently, WODA has planned a number of priorities for future development.

Acting as a hub for multi-agency sharing to support the cultural change and key transformation programmes such as 'Sustainable Transformation Partnership' for health and social care integration and 'Drive' for domestic abuse, WODA’s most ambitious project is to create a 'single view' at a resident, property and household level across the region. This platform will give partner organisations a clearer picture of client involvements and interventions with public sector organisations and, where possible, provide early support before things are escalated to a higher tier, at higher costs. This platform will have different uses, among which a safeguarding angle will be developed to support the Harm Assessment Unit and Family Front Door for Children Services to improve their information sharing practices and hence allow timely interventions in cases of domestic abuse, missing people, and other safeguarding activities.

In addition to the “Single View” project, one of the projects in the pipeline is a predictive pilot to identify complex dependencies in the population. As the partnership does not currently possess the advanced analytic capabilities required for delivering it, WODA will work in partnership with KPMG and Microsoft.

In future plans, an analysis is included of current Geographical Information Systems across Worcestershire Partners. WODA is currently working with Ordnance Survey to use new land use datasets that will allow pictorial and analytical overlay of business data onto existing GIS layers to support the Worcestershire 2040 vision and enhancing options for delivering multi-agency asset mapping.

Authors

Michelle Eaton

Michelle Eaton

Michelle Eaton

Programme Manager

Michelle worked in the Government Innovation team on how the smarter use of data and technology can help civil society and public sector organisations deliver services, better.

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Camilla Bertoncin

Camilla Bertoncin

Camilla Bertoncin

Assistant Programme Manager, Government Innovation Team

Camilla is an Assistant Programme Manager in the Government Innovation Team.

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