Four ways we’ll help you to share data better this year

Ensuring we have the right digital systems and data processes in place is critical to the local and national work of Healthwatch. Find out how we're improving our systems this year.
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In 2018-19, we started a review of our digital systems by carrying out extensive research with local Healthwatch to establish what we need to be effective. Since then, we have also reviewed our approach to data security, GDPR and data sharing. The latest phase of this work is now underway.

Last year, we set out a plan for how we are building greater consistency across the network and support for Healthwatch to work together. This work includes introducing common data standards and new systems to make it easier for you to share your information and insight with us and each other. 

How we're improving data sharing

1. Data protection guidance

The public entrusts us with sensitive information, which we have to protect.

Next month, we will publish updated data protection guidance to help you understand your responsibilities and ensure you have the right measures in place. Updated templates will also be available, including a privacy statement and a data protection impact assessment to help you with compliance.

We will encourage every local Healthwatch to check compliance, including how you store data securely and have agreements in place with organisations, including other Healthwatch when you share data. 

2. Free access to Smart Survey

Survey systems are essential to our work. That is why we have invested in a new system to help you:

  • Collect, analyse and share public insight.
  • Work collaboratively across Integrated Care Systems.
  • Share data automatically with us.

We're offering every local Healthwatch a licence for SmartSurvey for one year. It will cost you absolutely nothing and will give you access to survey templates, data analysis tools, and the ability to collaborate with other local Healthwatch and Healthwatch England. Already, 60 Healthwatch have signed up. 

Read our Q&A to find out more

3. Withdrawal of CiviCRM

We currently provide you a database – CivilCRM – to store your data, which is then automatically shared with us.

Our review of our digital systems found that many users were unhappy with the functionality of CiviCRM. The system also costs us a lot of money to update and maintain, and we believe this funding could be better invested in other ways. 

We will be withdrawing the provision of Civil CRM from March 2023 and are no longer accepting any new requests to use the CiviCRM. This also means that any new bids you make for local Healthwatch contracts should not include CiviCRM provision by Healthwatch England.

4. New systems to improve sharing data

Having data from every local Healthwatch helps us perform our legal function and is essential to making sure we can support you, represent you and make a difference at a national level. Here are the steps we are taking to help make this happen:

  1. Standard taxonomy: We'll be publishing an updated taxonomy using your feedback about how data is categorised. Our aim is that all local Healthwatch will be able to align the way you categorise your data with our common taxonomy. This will enable us to more quickly analyse data and get more detailed insights at an ICS and national level.
  2. Data sharing platform: We're currently building a data-sharing platform that will help you upload and share your data with us. The platform will enable you to map your data categories to the standard taxonomy and save the map for future use. We expect the platform to be available from August and it will replace our current data importing tool. We’ll also support you in using the new platform when it is launched.
  3. Data sharing agreement: We are introducing a new data-sharing agreement on the advice of data protection experts and in line with guidance from the Information Commissioners Office, for any system or process involving data sharing between Healthwatch and Healthwatch England. The agreement will set out our roles and standards of what is expected from the arrangement and each party, with a schedule for each system. All Smart Survey users will be asked to sign this agreement.

The progress we're making

Our work on data standards is starting to make a real difference. For example, the work we have been doing with you to improve demographic data collection has led to a significant increase in this data from you. We now have a much better understanding of who we are reaching and who we are not. Your insight is also helping us to highlight to national decision-makers where health inequalities exist

We know these changes can be disruptive, but as our work on demographic data has shown, these measures will improve the overall value of Healthwatch to health and care systems – at a local, regional and national level.

Resources to help you

Using demographic data guidance

How to collect demographic data guidance

How to collect and use demographic data – e-learning

Got a question?

If you’ve got a question about our data standards work, please get in touch with your Regional Manager. 

Get in touch