Steve Mathieson is a freelance analyst, journalist and editor, covering IT, government and healthcare, often in combination, writing for publications including The Guardian, I-D Information Daily, editing Society of IT Management's magazine.


Leeds is receiving £1m from NHS England to turn the Leeds Care Record into Ripple

Councils need to specialise on digital services then share their work with others, according to Leeds’ chief digital officer.

Healthcare providers tend to treat patients as a collection of parts, Dylan Roberts, Chief Digital Officer for the City of Leeds told Better Connected. Leeds City Council is focusing on joining up services that improve health and well-being. The city aims to serve "Bob", their fictious representative citizen, as a whole person. Treating "Bob" holistically might mean encouraging him to go fishing, Roberts added.

Leeds is receiving £1m in funding from NHS England to turn the Leeds Care Record used by NHS organisations, GPs and the council into Ripple, an open integrated digital care record platform. Roberts said its use in Leeds “has been transformative in terms of decisions made across the system”. OneSource, the shared IT service of the London boroughs of Havering and Newham, intends to use Ripple’s development work.

Leeds also wants to allow people to be active users of their own health and social care records, including by adding their own healthcare data through apps. “The only way you can do that is through open standards and open approaches,” he said.

Leeds City Council and other local organisations already publish open data through the Leeds Data Mill. Having noted that transport is a major issue for older people, the council worked with bus operator Arriva to set up bus countdown clocks in half a dozen GP surgeries. Although these use digitised data from Arriva, the clocks themselves consist of a single, analogue hand counting down the number of minutes to the next bus. Using these has led to an increase in bus use from these surgeries, Roberts said.

He added that there are already half a dozen apps for bins in Leeds, and some are better than the ones built by the council. This shows why it makes more sense for the city to focus on open data and standards and in some cases let other people provide services and information with them. “Most vendors want to lock you into their products,” he said. “We want a three-pin plug for government,” a standard that will work anywhere in the country.

Leeds already uses other councils’ systems where possible, such as Milton Keynes Council systems for transport and Warwickshire County Council’s blue badge application service. But Roberts said that some councils were building new systems unnecessarily, with the 10 Greater Manchester councils working on their own health system rather than adapting Leeds’ Ripple. “We’ve got issues of boundaries and control,” he said.


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