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The University of Southampton

New data sharing initiative in Southampton to improve public health and patient care

Published: 19 May 2021
The new Social Data Foundation will realise many benefits of data sharing to improve healthcare.

A data sharing initiative aimed at improving public health and patient care has been agreed in Southampton which will create a new data institution – the Social Data Foundation for Health and Social Care (SDF).

The three principal partners in the initiative - Southampton City Council (SCC), the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust (UHS), and the University of Southampton (UoS) - will strengthen their existing relationships in data sharing in order to facilitate positive and sustainable transformation of health and social care. This includes areas such as rapid provision of complex care, management of long-term conditions, integrated care and planning optimisation, and intelligence on COVID-19.

The Foundation will be created as a new data institution, directly supported by the University’s Web Science Institute , to facilitate multi-party data sharing and accelerate access to linked data from academia, the general public, health care providers, local authorities, and social care providers safely within a trustworthy data environment monitored by data stewards. The public will also be empowered to co-create and participate in health and social care systems transformation, and exercise their data-related rights.

Professor Mark E Smith, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Southampton, welcomed the creating of this new Foundation: “This ground-breaking initiative to establish the country’s first ever Social Data Foundation for Health and Social Care is indicative of the pioneering work led by the Web Science Institute to realise the many benefits that data sharing between our University, the Southampton City Council and the University Hospital Southampton Foundation Trust can bring. This new data institution has the potential to transform health and social care in our City and wider region and lay the groundwork for future innovations to follow in other sectors in the very near future.”

Mike Harris, Deputy Chief Executive at Southampton City Council said: “This ground-breaking initiative will bring together expertise from a range of partners ensuring we are in the best possible place to realise the benefits of a ‘whole city’ approach to addressing long-standing challenges in improving health and social care. By using the power of data and cutting-edge research to identify innovative solutions, we hope to help the city’s health and social care system deliver substantial positive change.”

David French, Chief Executive Officer at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust said: “We are committed to the future of healthcare, and our investment in data and analytics as part of the world class care we offer reflects this. As one of the largest teaching hospitals in Europe, we work at the leading edge of healthcare developments and run nationally leading research programmes on cancer, respiratory disease, nutrition, cardiovascular disease and more. Alongside this clinical research UHS is recognised as a global digital centre of excellence, developing and sharing digital innovations, so it makes perfect sense for us be the first healthcare partner in this new institution. We look forward to working with the University and City Council to build on the world class care we provide at University Hospital Southampton.”

The Foundation will bring together an interdisciplinary team of clinical and social care practitioners with data governance, health data scientists, and security experts from ethics, law, technology and innovation, web science, and digital health. To better align with community expectations, and represent the interests of the public, meaningful citizen participation and engagement activities will help to shape the ongoing development of the Foundation.

A Partnership Board, representing all three partner organisations, will be set up as a collaborative decision-making body responsible for the oversight and implementation of the Foundation.

A recent White Paper published by the Web Science Institute highlighted the advantages of digitising information about organisations, business processes, social communities and individuals to improve the future sustainability and performance of health and social care.

“Digitisation will create new ways to deliver public health, clinical diagnostics, self-health management and prevention, and operations management through a rich ecosystem of connected institutions, people, devices, and data,” say the paper’s authors. “The process of digitisation will be human-centric to ensure positive change through advice on how decision-making, diagnostics, screening and treatments can be augmented by digital technologies in ways that improve the patient journey.”

They also highlight the importance of incentivising, accelerating and joining up data sharing amongst stakeholders in ways that are socially acceptable, trustworthy, sustainable, and scalable, which has heightened even more so during the global COVID-19 pandemic, especially for localised intelligence and action that can be scaled and generalised nationally.

For more information about the SDF, see the University of Southampton’s Web Science Institute (WSI) White Paper entitled ‘A blue print for a Social Data Foundation: Accelerating trustworthy and collaborative data sharing for health and social care transformation’ – available at: .

This White Paper was produced as part of the SDF Project – partly funded and supported by the Web Science Institute and Southampton Connect. Southampton Connect is an independent partnership of senior city representatives drawn from a wide-range of sectors, including the SCC, UHS, and UoS – further information is available at: .

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