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Bringing together activity data

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Bringing together activity data

Community pharmacy and the work it does in England runs to many thousands of activities. There are several datasets that are available from NHS Digital and the NHS Business Services Authority that relate to activity, but it’s a big ask for stakeholders to keep up to date across them all. The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has developed a clinical services dashboard that brings this all together. But how useful is it?

The dashboard is still relatively new, first covering Q1 of financial year 2020/21. It’s based on data that is already in the public domain, but crucially, via different reports. A spokesperson for the PSNC explained to P3pharmacy how “the Clinical Services Dashboard brings together a range of open-source data published by the NHS so it is available to contractors and LPCs (local pharmaceutical committees) in one place.”

By bringing together official statistics, the PSNC has pulled together a neat infographic that sets out some of the big numbers relating to community pharmacy activity in England. For the financial year 2021/22, that includes delivery of over 25.5 million Covid-19 lateral flow test kit transactions, 4.8 million-plus NHS flu vaccinations and over 2 million patients who have received support by the New Medicines Service.

This is useful. It’s a quick way to convey not only the scale of community pharmacy activity, but also the breadth and depth of what community pharmacy does in England. The infographic also covers the numbers for patients who have been supported by the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS), the delivery of prescriptions through the Pandemic Delivery Service and the number of blood pressure checks completed. 

That infographic is something to get in front of the new secretary of state for health, Thérèse Coffey, not least to remind her that, as well as ‘care’ there is a another ‘c’ worth noting in health.

Range of activities

The dashboard includes data on the New Medicine Service (NMS), appliance use reviews (AURs), stoma customisation, Covid deliveries, CPCS, hepatitis C tests, lateral flow device (LFD) distribution, the discharge medicines service (DMS), blood pressure clinic checks and ambulatory blood pressure monitoring (ABPM). That’s got to be a time saving for those wanting to bring all these activities together in one place as the alternative is to root around both the NHS Digital and NHS Business Services Authority websites.

Tucked in the dashboard too is the electronic prescribing service rate. 

The value of activities presented in the dashboard is the potential to track activity over time; that makes sense to see if services like CPCS are taking off. But since data is just data, it’s not enough to be able to find out why – or why not – according to the patch. The value is in the potential to identify those doing well, and those not doing so well, so that more digging can be done to find out the whys and wherefores. The route to spreading good practice lies here. 

Understanding events at ICS level 

It’s a big help to have the dashboard, not only because it brings together data, but because it presents some relevant cuts of it to allow quick analysis of variations across the country. On the national dashboard tab, there’s the ability to pick any one of the activities and map it at integrated care system (ICS) level, with the top claimers for those activities presented too. 

It’s a bit picky, but the mapping is quite hard to read; the map has no ICS boundaries and the colours are challenging because it has names in white against some very pale blue backgrounds. However, chunking up the data at lower, geographically smaller levels would make the screen very busy indeed, and the presentation is future-proof to a degree – ICSs are not going anywhere soon – and, in terms of how services might be chunked together along pathways and across professional groups, they could be the significant unit of activity. In any case, precise comparisons are of less use; it’s the big picture that comes across here. 

Contractor and LPC dashboards

A contractor dashboard allows individual branches to see how they do against their peers and against the national average in different activities. There is some neat functionality in pre-populated graphs that provide comparisons to national averages and averages among similar types/sizes of contractors too. This is only possible because the PSNC has added identifying data for pharmacies. 

The LPC dashboard too appears to be at the heart of the PSNC’s ambition for data at the moment – the dashboard “supports LPCs to use the data to support their contractors,” according to the PSNC spokesperson. It’s a time saving, “created to make the data more usable by LPCs since in its raw form it would require them to manipulate it first before it could be used.”

Value: the bigger question

The PSNC has repackaged data that was already available. It will have taken time and effort. But the bigger question is one this author can’t answer alone: what is the value of the dashboard to community pharmacy? 

How the dashboard is actually used – by PSNC, by LPCs, by contractors as well as any interested ‘outsiders’ to community pharmacy – is key to its value to the sector. And part of that equation to work through is who will use it and is using it, and what for. 

The PSNC says value lies in how it helps it in its “work to support the provision and development of services.” 

The dashboard may well be refined over time. The PSNC told us: “When initially published, we sought feedback from the LPCs via the PSNC and LPC operations team (PLOT). Suggestions on how the dashboard could be enhanced continue to be welcomed and will be considered for the future development, and prioritised to align with the sector’s national and local priorities. Where more data becomes publicly available, we will consider its inclusion in the dashboard.” 

That needs funding, the PSNC added: “It is expected that when increased funding is available to PSNC from 2023/24 through to 2024/25, we can further enhance the data and the evidence that we can commission to support our case, which will also strengthen our support for LPCs.”

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