Better use of data can transform care and save lives in care homes and domiciliary care, according to a new report from the British Geriatrics Society (BGS).

The position statement, ‘Smarter data, better care: Empowering care homes to use data to transform quality of care’ sets out the barriers to and opportunities for collecting standardised  data to help to inform better care.

While several different bodies collect information on people in care homes – NHS trusts, local authorities, government agencies, researchers and care providers – there is no national, systematic approach or cross-sector coordination for how data is captured, shared and used to optimise social care.

The report says this knowledge gap cost lives during the pandemic. As infections spread, government policy action was hampered by a lack of basic information around the size and demographics of the care home population, the flow of people being admitted into or discharged from care home settings, and care home length of stay and life expectancy.

Care home data will make the sector better informed to make decisions

The BGS hosted an event in London with health and social care practitioners, academics, system leaders and policymakers on 12 September 2023 to discuss ideas and best practice around a minimum dataset for care homes.

In the report, the BGS makes 12 recommendations for policymakers and regulators to consider. This includes ensuring a national minimum dataset is genuinely a resource for better care, by ensuring that its format, content and method of implementation are meaningful and useful for people living in care homes and those caring for them.

It contains insights from the National Institute of Health Research DACHA study and from interRAI as well as from other national and international studies using social care data.

Professor Adam Gordon, President of the British Geriatrics Society, said: “The troubling revelations from recent hearings at the Covid inquiry remind us how little policymakers and healthcare leaders knew about care homes at the beginning of 2020. This was, in part, due to a lack of data.

“We must never be in a situation again where we are asked to make life or death decisions about the most vulnerable members of our society without the data to do so. Data also has an important role to play in delivering the best care day-to-day. With this in mind, I’m delighted that the BGS is publishing this report. We hope that this helps give policymakers impetus towards commissioning a minimum dataset in long term care homes that is robust enough to inform care decisions. It is essential that they do so with urgency.”