Scotland’s world-class health data can unlock health improvements

As valuable as oil in discovering new treatments BY DR DIANE HARBISON


e all know that Scotland has a problem with chronic illness like liver disease, MS and can- cer. However, there is a silver

lining: the health data we have in Scotland is some of the very best in the world. It is even referred to as our new oil – because it could be so valuable to our nation in terms of improving health. Many of today’s healthcare innovations

take advantage of big data. Scotland has incredibly well-mapped patient data, helped by the Community Health Index (CHI) num- ber that is assigned to every Scot at birth. All of a patient’s medical data is associated with this number. Precision medicine involves developing

treatments that are targeted to a person’s genetic makeup. Because people respond differently to medication depending on their genes, precision medicine will help get the

Celebrating our NHS and our pharmacists

at the forefront of healthcare Key partners in person-centred care

care, pharmacists ensure individuals get the most out of their medicines and help reduce avoidable hospital admissions. Community pharmacies provide some of


am proud to mark the platinum jubilee of our most treasured public service – the NHS. Over the past 70 years phar- maceutical advances have significantly

enhanced our health service. Pharmacists, as the experts in medicines

and their safe and effective use, play an increasingly crucial role. Te discovery of new medicines has resulted in more treat- ment options, making them one of the most important interventions. Tey can help avoid premature death, cure illness and significantly improve the individual’s quality of life. However, medicines can carry risks as well as benefits. Te persistent focus on safety and person-

centred outcomes is the hallmark of any pharmacist. Teir impact is demonstrated by the difference they make to patients and our NHS. Working with colleagues across the multi-disciplinary team in health and social

12 | NHS70 | SUMMER 2018

the most accessible services within our NHS, and Scotland is starting to benefit from a ‘pharmacy first’ approach so that the public knows when it is best to see their pharma- cist. Tey provide core NHS services and tailored advice on your medicines. Many

“Our NHS will see an increasingly visible

pharmacy profession at the forefront of healthcare”

also offer other services, such as clinics focused on asthma, blood pressure, COPD, diabetes and travel health. Increasingly, pharmacists work in GP

practices, enabling pharmaceutical care for more complex cases within the practice- setting. In hospital, pharmacists are on the ward advising patients and physicians on all aspects of medicines. With further advances in personalised

medicines on the horizon, the public, fellow health professionals and our NHS will see an increasingly visible pharmacy profession at the forefront of healthcare.

Alex MacKinnon FRPharmS, is Director of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in Scotland @RPSScotland

right treatment to the right person at the right time, resulting in better outcomes for patients. SMS-IC is an industry-led healthcare in-

novation hub in precision medicine. One of the projects we are currently working on, in collaboration with partners Eagle Genomics, the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, and NHS Scotland, could help develop new tests and treatments for patients with non-

“Precision medicine will help get the

right treatment to the right person at the right time”

alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which is a leading cause of premature death. When it comes to discovering new treat-

ments for this type of disease, our health data is indeed as valuable as oil. We’ll be using £1.7m of funding from Innovate UK to develop the world’s first data commons for NASH, the progressive form of NAFLD. Tis will share information from patients with NASH, which will help us understand which tests and treatments are most effective for each patient. Improper use of data has been topical

recently, thanks to the Facebook scandal and GDPR, so people could be forgiven for feel- ing wary about the use of health data. But there is no need to worry – it is anonymised, and nobody can be identified from it. We collaborate with the NHS to ensure all data is used responsibly and appropriately. Te future is exciting. Our world-class

data might be rooted in our unfortunate chronic health problems, but it could also hold the keys to the solutions.

Dr Diane Harbison is CEO of Stratified Medicine Scotland Innovation Centre.

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