7 June 2021

Shining a light on the NHS data analytics ‘stockpile of awesomeness’

Andi Orlowski of the Health Economics Unit (HEU) and the Association of Professional Healthcare Analysts (AphA) recently joined John McConnell on the ‘Fika: The Leadership’ podcast. The podcast features contributors who are helping to shape the health and care analytics space.

I was intrigued to take part in the Fika podcast, if for no other reason than that its name is based on a concept that truly supports what we are trying to do at both the Health Economics Unit (HEU) and AphA Analysts.

Fika is an integral part of Swedish culture. It is the essential act of making time for sharing a tea or coffee, a delicious pastry and a chat with friends or colleagues.

And that’s exactly what we need to do within the NHS data analytics community – make the time to stop and chat, to speak to each other about the work we do, to highlight our work to system leaders across health and care and promote our achievements widely. We should be shouting about the difference we can help make to the lives of people across the country.

As analysts, we need to get networking – building a learning community where we can share code, data and analytics between ourselves and with colleagues across local authority teams and industry. Together, we can help steer the way health and care are delivered and we need to share our achievements with pride, acknowledging those whose work we have borrowed and adapted.

AphA can be a major voice that fights for and promotes the work that data analysts do across the NHS – but data team leaders and system leaders across the NHS need to join that rallying cry.

Recognition starts at home

We can start by being more inclusive within our own teams. I discussed with John McConnell the idea that when our teams go into meetings with clients, we don’t get introduced by our title or rank – just our names. This stops all conversation being directed at the ‘boss’. I remember what it was like to be side-lined in meetings, and let’s face it, with the talent within our team at HEU, I’m often not the best health economist in the room! I want everyone involved in our work to be fully engaged all the time, no matter who they’re talking with.

I consider myself lucky to be working with AphA; as an association it is firmly behind the drive to professionalise data analysis and supporting individual growth. It’s so important to get some recognition for the amazing work that analysts in the NHS do.

The NHS employs the best analysts, health economists and data scientists. These are exceptional people, many with PhDs in medical statistics and data science. I want to ensure that system leaders and chief information officers know and reward what their teams are capable of.

After all, why send funding to outside consultants when your teams are already capable of doing the work? Why have them generating reports when they are perfectly capable of writing the script to automate a routine task, and go off and focus on something else more complex? Leaders need to invest in the right tools and make sure their teams are doing the right work that really adds value.

Inspiring each other and growing together

NHS data teams really are a stockpile of awesomeness. No one joined the NHS as an analyst or learned on the job not to make a difference. They didn’t join the NHS to make up the numbers. They joined the NHS to make a difference. And the work that they do can help change and save lives.

Work through AphA, platforms such as Future NHS, AnalystX and the Health Foundation are all helping us build a community. But I have always said that communities only thrive when you give in more than you take out.

The COVID-19 pandemic has given us an opportunity to come together in a spirit of learning, with people happy to release information and be quizzed on it, or to ask questions of others. We now need to build on that.

There are around 10,000 analysts in the NHS. Bright people doing cutting-edge things.

We want to hear from you and we want to talk about your work.

I urge you start publishing your work; a lot of what we produce in data analysis and health economics can be submitted to academic journals and other magazines and at HEU we’ve been lucky to have work published recently. You can also use your own blogs and social media.

Your Trust or commissioning support unit (CSU) communications functions should be delighted if you approach them with stories about the positive impact your work is having. And if they can’t help you, then please speak to me. We will work with you to publicise your work and share your experiences and learning.

Whatever question you may be struggling with, chances are that someone else is doing the same – and another might already have the answer! Let’s get together for some fika and make the biggest difference we can.

Further information

Author- Andi Orlowski

About Andi Orlowski

Andi Orlowski is a health economist and the Director of the Health Economics Unit. Andi is passionate about population health analytics, especially about addressing health inequalities. He is researching this for his PhD at Imperial College London.

Andi talks about ‘awesomeness’ a lot, and uses his non-Executive Director and Lead for Collaboration and Clinical Engagement role at AphA Analysts to champion healthcare analysts and build a professional support network.

Meet Andi

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