In the government's recent publication, Improving Outcomes: A strategy for Cancer, cancer outcome information is a frequent area for discussion, and quite rightly so. Without quality information health care services are unable to function to their full potential. Information allows us to measure every aspect of our population and our services, whether it is number of new cancers within a particular region (incidence), the number of operations carried within a certain trust, or the length of time that a patient waits before being seen by a specialist. Because we can measure things accurately we can predict demand, allocate appropriate resources and often, importantly, we can say whether the work we are doing is improving the lives of the population we serve.
Cancer services use information in a wide variety of ways, and there is a substantial resource expended on ensuring that we are continuing to collect and improve the data we have available. The data that is collected is used to feed a wide range of national statistics, as well as informing local analysis that is used to direct local decision making.
As we move from a target driven NHS to an outcome based NHS, the depth of information that we collect will become increasingly complicated. This will be necessary to produce risk adjust outcomes results which will be used to inform patient choice, and drive quality improvements in the services that we offer.