Charity logos of those involved

Health Data Lab: An initiative whose time has come

We’ve written to the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt MP, asking for his backing for a Health Data Lab. 24 leading charities supported this bid by co-signing the letter. 

It’s no secret that the NHS is under strain. But charities alleviate pressure on the NHS in numerous ways: helping people to stay healthy, preventing accidents and illnesses, and keeping people out of hospital. And its not just ‘health charities’ either whose work is tied up with our health system—health outcomes are vital to the work of homelessness charities, for example.

But charities need to understand what impact they are having so that they can maximise their contribution to the nation’s health. While some charities are already using data to improve the health and well-being of their service users—as the Richmond Group explored earlier this year—the government holds a wealth of currently inaccessible data that needs unlocking. This data would help charities and other providers to make better sense of their impact—and that would mean better patient health, more effective NHS commissioning, and public money saved in the long term.

A Health Data Lab would enable charities to analyse their impact against government data. This data analysis would be entirely confidential, with the charities receiving an aggregate, anonymised report of the results, as is the case with the Ministry of Justice’s Justice Data Lab. And it’s not just charities and their beneficiaries who stand to benefit. Anyone delivering health services could access the Data Lab—using it to improve their own services, while adding to a wider knowledge base about what works.

The 24 charities that co-signed this letter believe it is an important initiative that will help them to better support the communities they work with:

‘With a Health Data Lab, we would have access to invaluable intelligence about what helps people’s mental health and well-being, and what provides best value for money.’

Centre for Mental Health

‘A tool like the Health Data Lab could help us track our clients’ health progress after they move on from our hostels and supported accommodation. If we had access to data on former clients’ use of A&E and ambulance service and engagement with planned healthcare we could better assess the long-term impact of our services.’

St Mungo’s

‘Access to patient data would mean that the we could highlight areas for much needed improvement in diagnosis and treatment for lung patients; improving lives and spending taxpayers’ money wisely with the best possible results.’

British Lung Foundation

With resources under pressure, it is really important that charities and the NHS know what works in reducing hospital admissions and improving health outcomes. At NPC we believe that a Health Data Lab is an initiative whose time has come.

Find out more about the Health Data Labs project. If you have thoughts about the concept we would love to hear from you. Please get in touch via

The following charities signed the letter we sent to Jeremy Hunt MP. One charity wanted to remain private about their signature.