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26.01.16

Greater Manchester to establish smart data-sharing centre

Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) wants to establish a data-sharing authority to break down the barriers stopping public services from sharing information.

The authority, named GM-Connect, will enable better understanding of the risks, challenges and opportunities existent in the region, identifying patterns, trends and relationships and helping allocate resources more effectively.

It largely echoes Policy Exchange’s Smart Devolution report last week, which recommended that city-regions should capitalise on smart technology to take greater control over their public services and productivity.

Information collected via the “small centre of excellence” will be used to support the area’s ongoing health and social care integration and wider public service reform to ensure all elements are better connected.

GM-Connect data holders will also ensure the region is safeguarding information and that it is only used appropriately.

Tony Lloyd, interim Greater Manchester mayor, said: “Improved data sharing is essential to successfully transforming public services in Greater Manchester and ensuring they are better integrated.

“It will enable us to build up a clearer and more detailed picture of what's happening across the area so we can target our resources as effectively as possible, as well as helping us to identify the people most in need of support. This includes reducing the costs of public services in a sustainable way by addressing issues, for example potential poor health, before they become expensive problems.”

The authority also aims to avoid costly and time-consuming duplication, where people have to give the same information repeatedly to public services.

An example of this from outside Greater Manchester, cited in the report, outlines the case of a woman who had to explain her father’s circumstances after a hip operation to 10 different agencies – but ended up having to arrange a wheelchair, bath aids and injection appointments herself, because the agencies had not shared information with each other.

As well as building on the Policy Exchange recommendations, planning for GM-Connect takes inspiration from international examples of best practice, including in New York, Canada and Estonia, where data is already shared as a way to improve services.

It will be overseen by an executive board made up of senior representatives from councils, health providers and other public service heads. The centre will initially have four full-time staff led by a Great Manchester chief information officer.

GMCA’s executive will be asked during its meeting on Friday (29 January) to approve establishing the service using £500,000 from a £4m funding pot awarded by the government to support innovative data-sharing.

Stephen Curtis, director of the Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing, said: “Greater Manchester’s (GM's) aspiration to become a leader in information sharing builds on the strong relationships that have been forged over the years between districts, in order to plan and deliver more productive and efficient services. Our conversations with GM have demonstrated that they have recognised from the outset the importance of taking a holistic approach in order to achieve this. The development of the GM-Connect approach is an important first step in bringing together data to analyse trends – their next challenge will be embedding information sharing as an integral part of the new GM culture to validate the statistical information and create a richer picture for practitioners, managers and commissioners to act upon daily.”

In the same vein of smart technology, Manchester has also recently bagged the £10m Internet of Things fund to improve local services using innovative technologies.

It beat 22 other entries across 34 cities with its ‘CityVerve Project’ pitch, designed to transform the city centre’s Corridor stretch with extensive plans for talkative bus stops, air monitoring and a network of sensors that will help deliver more efficient and flexible products. Overall, the project will focus on the pillars of healthcare, transport, energy and environment, and culture and community.

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