SIA - Strategic Intelligence Alliance

The use of data in the NHS is commonplace and yet the transformation of data into actionable intelligence is surprisingly rare.

Analysis and reporting are all too often confused and thought of as the same thing. The NHS generates millions of reports every day relating to every aspect of service delivery. Emergency care, planned care, waiting lists, waiting times, mortality rates, clinical appointments, failure to attend clinic appointments, ambulance delays, ambulance response times and the list goes on.

These reports almost always focus on what happened in terms of activity volume and time, but rarely explore the details of why things happen and use that detail to make operational and clinical decisions to improve the service for patients and staff.

It is, without question, important to report on a range of metrics and measures to establish the level of service that patients receive. However, these metrics are so often aimed at “performance” and hence “performance management”. Consequently, there is very often a negative association with the use of data resulting in a reluctance to make information visible and transparent.

Transforming the way in which NHS organisations view and utilise intelligence and analysis rather than data is crucial to faster and more appropriate service improvements for patients. Coupled with this is the need to address the fundamental failure to engage with clinicians about the issues that have interest and meaning for them and their patients. This transformation requires the interpretation of data, by people who understand the service being analysed, and then sharing that intelligence with those delivering the service to develop improvements.

The Strategic Intelligence Alliance in Healthcare was established with that specific aim in view. To transform data into actionable intelligence that can be shared with clinicians to make real life changes to patient care.

One area of recent work was the creation of Covid Impact Reports for Cancer Services. As identified above the reports provide limited information without the associated interpretation and transformation into intelligence.

The impact reports focussed on both the 2-week wait and also the 62-day wait for the commencement of treatment. There is a variety of data from multiple Trusts looking at different cancer types across the pre, during and post pandemic peaks.

The anonymised information in Picture 1, below is from a UK Trust. Patients with suspected lung cancer are consistently seen within 2 weeks from referral by their GP. However, the commencement of treatment for these patients is not so consistently achieved. It is worth noting that the number of patients requiring treatment is low, but this raises a number of questions that would be worth exploring with the clinicians responsible for delivering this service. These would include:

  • Are there sufficient resources to be able to treat the patients within the prescribed timescale. In one respect the numbers are low which limits the impact of the data, but on the other side it should be possible to treat all these patients due to the low numbers so further exploration of the processes and the resources are essential to understand why this is not being achieved for these patients.

Patients with lung cancer are consistently seen within 2 weeks, however commencement of treatment within 62 days is poor for patients with Lung cancer.
Patients with lung cancer are consistently seen within 2 weeks, however commencement of treatment within 62 days is poor for patients with Lung cancer.
Credit: SIA

Working with Open Data Saves Lives, we are happy to provide these reports and the Power BI models used to generate them on request and free of charge as we believe it is important that every Trust Board knows how its cancer services are performing. We will also be making them available on both the ODSL and SIA websites to help inform the debate and fuel a conversation around cancer service provision in the light of COVID. We welcome you to get in touch using the email address below if you have any comments or experience to share in this area and would like to get involved. 

Neil Storey BSc (Hons) RGN, SRPara, PgC ECP


Revolutionise Limited


SIA Associate