New national data system launched for primary care in Scotland

Written by Jenni Davidson on 7 March 2017 in News

SPIRE will provide anonymised data for GPs and national researchers to better allocate resources and treatments

Doctor using computer - Image credit: unknown

A new primary care information system that will let GPs, NHS Scotland, the Scottish Government and medical researchers have a better understanding of the health and social care needs of the population has been launched today.

SPIRE (the Scottish Primary Care Information Resource) will provide anonymised data from GP practices to help medical professionals more effectively target resources and treatments at a time when people are living longer with multiple conditions.

It can also be used by researchers to help develop new treatments for particular conditions or diseases.


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Dr Alan McDevitt, Chair of BMA Scotland General Practitioners’ Committee, said: “It means GPs can, for example, analyse how many of their diabetic patients have got eye problems, and then maybe do some more screening and interventions to reduce those problems.

“They could look at the number of patients with stroke who have disabilities and perhaps get them on to an exercise programme.

“There are many different examples of how, with the right information, you can target the right kind of things to help people with their everyday lives.

‘We need a better understanding of the health of Scotland’s population, and know where to spend our money, time and resources, to make it better.

“We need Scotland to be a healthier nation and SPIRE is essential for that.”

Data will be transferred electronically from GP practices to NHS National Services Scotland (NSS) where it will be held securely and confidentially.

Speaking at Holyrood’s Digital Health and Care Scotland conference last week, Health Secretary Shona Robison called it "an excellent example of how Scottish society as a whole can benefit from analysing anonymised data from NHS systems”.

She also assured: “However, let me make clear that robust governance and security are integral to any such higher level uses of NHS data in Scotland and no personal details are ever made available to anyone not involved directly in the relevant patient’s care."

SPIRE has been developed with the Royal College of GPs and the Scottish GP committee of the British Medical Association and patient representatives have been involved in both the SPIRE project board and an independent advisory group to ensure that patient views and concerns were taken into account.

GP practices will have control over all data sent outside the practice.

Dr Catherine Calderwood, Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, said: “Today’s launch is the start of our campaign to ensure everyone in Scotland is aware of the way we are improving how we use information from GP patient records, and demonstrate how this will help plan and improve health and care services.

“SPIRE is a fantastic example of how Scottish society as a whole can benefit from analysing data from NHS systems.

“It will enable anonymised health data from GPs to be used to both support GPs themselves and to analyse the nation’s health and help us to more effectively target resources and treatments.”

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