Key ask: Further national support to improve data on community health services and enable interoperability between partners.

There are specific complexities related to collecting national data in the community sector. Although there is national work underway to develop a national dataset for community services, the complexity and variability in size and scale of providers within the community sector means this is challenging. Data quality can be variable, and the NHS England community services dataset does not currently produce real-time data that providers can easily use to benchmark and improve their performance. This can make it difficult for community providers to develop a robust business case to secure government and national funding for investment in integration. 

Problems with sharing data between community and primary care can also make it very difficult to develop a holistic view of a person's health and care needs, therefore making it challenging to deliver integrated care through multi-disciplinary teams. This can lead to duplication and increased clinical risk for patients. Community providers report instances where a lack of shared data leads to patients being referred into an urgent and emergency care pathway when they would be better supported at home with an urgent community response team and wider wraparound care.

Local work to navigate some of these challenges, including through greater alignment supported by integrated care systems and the development of local information governance agreements, is important. However, scaling this up requires greater national investment in and prioritisation of community data and digital capacity, to better understand service delivery and the impact of further integration.

National-level support to promote interoperability, or data sharing, between IT systems, is also key. Interoperability between system partners is central to developing a shared understanding of the care needs of a local population. In turn this can support greater integration between community and primary care.