This famous quote from Peter Drucker could have been made for the current climate in social care. We in social care, to a large extent, are experiencing the pinch points of a data desert. I was very struck by the launch last week of the Office for Statistics Regulation report on adult social care data. This important publication notes the size and importance of the social care sector, and yet the closing sentence of the first paragraph of the report tells it all “Our review finds that this important sector of public policy is very poorly served by data.”

The report highlights three priorities to improve this position of social care data, and they are all important areas for us to consider as we move forward in this new decade. The first is to improve the leadership and collaboration around social care data. The vision for integrated services talks a good talk about joining up services, and building them with people at the heart, but the reality is that we don’t have the information we need to understand just what is happening for individuals at every step along their journey, and our knowledge around social care interventions is even less developed than that of our partners in health. The second recommendation is about identifying the gaps in available data, understanding that for many the provision of social care is synonymous with the provision offered or commissioned by local authorities. OSR highlights the enormous gaps this creates not only in relation to those who fund their own care, but also those who are offering care on an unpaid basis.

Finally, the report emphasises the need to improve the existing official statistics. As long as we continue to be the poor relation around the volume and quality of data available to emphasise the impact of care, we will remain out of sight and out of mind in policy makers’ minds at both a national and local level. I am not going to be able to do justice to this important report, but will instead direct you to an excellent blog on the subject by our friends at Future Care Capital, who are ardent champions of the value of social care data. Read the full blog by Anne Marie Naylor here

Of course, this doesn’t mean that we have no available data in social care, and there are a growing number of fantastic projects which highlight the role of data, both now and in the future. With a project aimed at the utilisation of big data to support medicines optimisation in care and nursing homes, Dr Fiona Hedley has been blazing a trail around the country. Her project symbolises an exciting new set of partnerships between academia, providers and suppliers of technology. Read more about it here

Indeed, NCF has been blazing its own trail around data on a number of fronts. For example, one of our Digital Transformation Leads, Claire Sutton, is leading a digital pioneer project to explore how SNOMED CT codes can be used within adult social care setting. This exciting project is a prototype to understand whether this global coding language can play a part in effectively articulating the contribution of social care to addressing health and care needs. In addition, Tommy Henderson-Reay, also a Digital Transformation Lead, is writing and delivering a Digital Leadership course with a strong focus on the value of data in social care. This course absolutely recognises the fundamental role that both the collection and analysis of data will make to the leadership of the care sector in the future.

And finally, if you are feeling overwhelmed by all the potential for data to change lives, here is an example of some data that you can immediately influence. Margaret Mackie, who is living with Dementia, and her carer Jamie Lee Morley, have managed to crack the charts with their fundraising rendition of ‘My Way’. The single has had a roaring 5 days in the charts – but needs a boost to beat its current position. Check out their single here and as you do so, reflect on the way in which the music industry offers you a masterclass in data management. Here is truly an industry led by data, and one that only manages that which it can measure.

Follow Vic on Twitter – @vicrayner