Capturing data. Then doing something useful with it

Richard Scholes looks at Using Data Systems as a Tool for Partnership Working.

Richard Scholes, SystmOne Product Specialist at Better Start Bradford looks at Using Data Systems as a Tool for Partnership Working.

Richard Scholes

Better Start Bradford and the wider A Better Start programme are, at the end of the day, all about learning. Every project funded by Better Start Bradford is of course valuable in terms of the direct benefits they provide, but we need to be able to provide evidence of these benefits in a way that can help to inform future decisions around funding and commissioning.

That is why it is so important to have a way to capture and record all kinds of data – and to be able to do something useful with it once it has been gathered.

Here at Better Start Bradford, we haven’t been content to ‘just’ have a data system that can gather information and then report back to us. Our goal from day one has been to work towards a joined-up approach, where the different organisations supporting each family can all cooperate to provide a complete network of support.

For the last five years, my focus has been to work towards using a piece of software called SystmOne to contribute to a ‘shared child record’ where each service can see what other support is being provided, making it easy to identify what additional help could be offered by another team.

The process of working towards a shared child record has not been an easy one – I could drone on at great length about all the crucial (but not very exciting) work we have done at each stage around information governance and data protection. That would make for a very different article, so I won’t get bogged down in the details other than to say that privacy and data security have consistently been our highest priorities throughout this piece of work.

We started out by doing a simple pilot of SystmOne purely to see whether it would be a suitable tool for recording data from our projects. After that, we added ways that services within the Better Start Bradford partnership could work and communicate using the system – for example by sending electronic referrals to each other.

We have hit our fair share of technical hurdles along the way, but the project leads and the teams within each Better Start Bradford project have shown phenomenal determination and resilience in working through issues and continuing to push this work forward, while still providing an outstanding service to the families they support.

Access to safeguarding information has been a huge benefit to services that carry out home visits, serving as a way to ensure the safety of both practitioners and the families they support. Phil Brigg, Progression and Outcomes Coordinator from the Baby Steps team, says:

“The safeguarding information within SystmOne is essential to our service, in terms of safeguarding for staff when visiting clients’ homes and in order to better serve the people referred to us. Since switching to a universal offer, most referrals that come into Baby Steps do not contain much information.
“This aspect of SystmOne allows us to see if there are any concerns that would affect our staff or the potential service user before our staff enter their home. It is a vital part of our toolkit that is regularly used.”

We are now at a stage where some of our services (with clear consent from individual families) can share information with healthcare providers such as GPs and Health Visitors.

Rachel Duxbury, Project Manager for the Breastfeeding Support Service, has this to say about the benefits of using SystmOne:

“The ability to see information from health visiting teams and GPs has meant we don’t need to spend extra time attempting to contact lead health professionals for information such as infant weight gain, medications prescribed, outcomes of MDT (multi-disciplinary team) meetings and the results of any tests carried out which may be relevant to the support we offer.
“This in turn means we can offer more responsive and timely individualised support to clients. We are able to offer more joined-up care for the patient, which allows for a more collaborative approach with our partners from statutory organisations.”

There is still a great deal of work to be done, but we have already started to demonstrate the benefits of joined-up health and social care records. We will continue to work within the wider Bradford network to ensure the best outcomes for everybody who accesses Better Start Bradford services

About A Better Start

A Better Start is a ten-year (2015-2025), £215 million programme set-up by The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK.

Five A Better Start partnerships based in Blackpool, Bradford, Lambeth, Nottingham and Southend are supporting families to give their babies and very young children the best possible start in life. Working with local parents, the A Better Start partnerships are developing and testing ways to improve their children’s diet and nutrition, social and emotional development, and speech, language and communication.

The work of the programme is grounded in scientific evidence and research. A Better Start is place-based and enabling systems change. It aims to improve the way that organisations work together and with families to shift attitudes and spending towards preventing problems that can start in early life. It is one of five major programmes set up by The National Lottery Community Fund to test and learn from new approaches to designing services which aim to make people’s lives healthier and happier

The National Children’s Bureau is coordinating an ambitious programme of shared learning for A Better Start, disseminating the partnerships’ experiences in creating innovative services far and wide, so that others working in early childhood development or place-based systems change can benefit.

Sign-up to join our mailing list