Delivering data-driven tools and services on a daily basis

The Mohn Westlake Foundation has funded the creation of the DataLab’s Policy Insights think tank at the University of Oxford. This is a fully embedded think tank that is integrated into a technical team, delivering data-driven tools and services on a daily basis.

The DataLab Policy Insights think tank drives detailed actionable insights about the better use of data, evidence and software in healthcare and policy. The think tank is led by Policy Lead, Jess Morley, and activities to date include:

At a glance…

The DataLab has played a role in :

  • “Bringing NHS data analysis into the 21st Century” article was turned into official strategy by NHSX
  • Citizens Juries found that OpenSAFELY most trusted data initiatives during the pandemic. 100% of jurors were supportive of the decision for OpenSAFELY to be introduced (77% very much in support, 23% broadly supportive) – OpenSAFELY: Public Opinion | Blog | Oxford DataLab
  • Influenced the official strategy for General Practice Data for Planning and Research (GPDPR) – NHS Digital
  • The DataLab’s OpenSAFELY platform was named in a Parliament debate regarding the use of patient data – Use of Patient Data | Thursday 24 June 2021 | Hansard | UK Parliament

Bringing NHS data analysis into the 21st Century

Recent outputs in this area include a paper on Bringing NHS data analysis into the 21st Century. This paper was used by NHSX, the unit responsible for digital transformation in the NHS, to establish a programme of work around ‘analytics as a profession’. This programme of work is overseen by ‘Developing Data and Analysis as a Profession.’ The board meets once a month, and Jess Morley is a member of the board.


OpenSAFELY is a secure, transparent, open-source software platform for analysis of electronic health records data. All platform activity is publicly logged. All code for data management and analysis is shared, under open licenses and by default, for scientific review and efficient re-use.

OpenSAFELY is also a set of best practices encoded as software. It can be deployed to create a Trusted Research Environment (TRE) alongside appropriate database, compute, governance, and administrative elements; or it can be deployed as a privacy-enhancing layer on any existing secure database or TRE.

Health Data Review

DataLab's Policy Lead coordinated and supported the Health Data Review commissioned by the Secretary of State for Health and Care into the better, broader and safer uses of health data for analysis and research.

This has involved conducting over 150 in-depth semi-structured interviews with various stakeholders and senior policymakers across the health and care system; holding 15 focus groups; conducting thematic analysis of the results; a systematic literature review; an in-depth policy analysis of previous relevant spend, policies, and policy recommendations; the writing of a ‘vision’ for the use of health data for research and analysis; the writing of a 60-page report including a series of policy recommendations.

The DataLab will be involved in the implementation of the recommendations from this review.

Review into over prescribing in the NHS

DataLabs, led the ‘digital, data and technology’ working group of the overprescribing review commissioned by the Secretary of State for Health and Care. This involved holding a series of workshops, conducting thematic analysis, and developing a series of policy recommendations that were provided to the Department of Health and Social Care.

Consulting on NHS data strategy

The Policy Lead, Jess Morley, at the DataLab has been consulting on the recently announced review into the NHS data strategy: Data saves lives: reshaping health and social care with data (draft) – GOV.UK

Citizens Juries

The DataLab policy lead has recently taken part in two Citizens’ Juries:

Recently acting as the expert witnesses for an NHS England and National Data Guardian-commissioned series of citizens juries focused on extracting data sharing lessons learned from the Pandemic. More detailed information is available here:

The juries were commissioned to address key policy questions arising from the ways in which health and social care data sharing changed during the pandemic and from new initiatives developed to facilitate sharing, such as: should these data sharing initiatives, created under temporary legal powers to tackle COVID-19, continue beyond the pandemic and if so for how long? Who should make these policy decisions?

The Policy Lead was also involved in a recent Citizen Jury in collaboration with the Ada Lovelace institute on trust in different elements of data use including risk prediction.

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