A leading health science researcher from the University of Stirling visited the House of Commons to answer questions from MPs and Lords on using patient data to help identify where suicide prevention activities would be best introduced.
Nadine Dougall, Senior Lecturer in the Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professions Research Unit, led a study which looked at patient data in Scotland and revealed that general hospitals should engage in more mental health screenings and follow-up with at-risk individuals.
The study was presented at an All-Party Parliamentary Group Event, Can patient data revolutionise healthcare,to exemplify what can be done with patient data to provide a more comprehensive level of care within the NHS.
The research, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, studied all deaths by suicide in Scotland in people aged 15 and over between 1981 and 2010. Of the 16,411 suicides, almost two thirds had linkable hospital records.
Surprisingly, the data revealed that more than half the people who died within three months of last discharge did so after admission to general hospital.
Working with the MQ Data Science Group, Ms Dougall shared the opinion of experts from across the UK with MPs and Lords, revealing the challenges involved in accessing and sharing patient data.
These include the fact there is no unified, standardised national register for mental health patients and different datasets are kept in different settings, each with its own unique access procedure.
Ms Dougall said: “Using historical and electronic health records in research is crucial to saving lives and improving the service patients receive from the NHS. In the UK all data is stored securely and every patient has been allocated a confidential NHS number. However, these records can be better utilised in many different ways, including that of guiding suicide prevention work.
“The data currently held on all NHS patients has a significant role to play in saving peoples’ lives, if we can access and assess it properly. We have now been able to provide parliament with a better understanding of the opportunities for suicide intervention, and of the challenges in accessing patient data in secure settings.”
The Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professions Research Unit (NMAHP RU) is a multidisciplinary national research unit, funded by the Scottish Government Health Directorate Chief Scientist Office (CSO). It has academic bases within Glasgow Caledonian University and the University of Stirling.