Development of learning system for alcohol

north west icon North West Coast
Researchers involved: Led by Dr Keith Bodger and Prof Tony Marson
Disease area impacted: Alcohol Related Conditions
Key partners: Teams at the University of Liverpool, University of Lancaster, and AIMES medical services are working with the NWC Innovation Agency
Start and end dates: Jan 2016 to Dec 2018

Information will inform point of care decisions
Improving the way information is shared between agencies will improve service planning

Project Overview

There are more than 60 diverse conditions linked to alcohol misuse; they involve multiple pathways and place a major burden on the NHS. These alcohol related health problems are often accompanied by complex social issues involving unemployment, reliance on benefits, poor housing and homelessness; family issues such as safeguarding of children and domestic violence; plus road traffic accidents and crime.

Improving the way information is collected, analysed and shared between agencies and service users will bring opportunities for new ways to respond collectively. Front-line teams will have better, more timely access to information which will inform point-of-care decisions and service planning.

Why is this research important?

Alcohol related health problems place a major burden on the NHS and are often accompanied by a variety of social issues involving unemployment, homelessness and family issues. However, professionals providing care in hospitals, general practice, social services and elsewhere will often only know part of the story for those individuals they try to help.

There are huge amounts of data collected and we believe that we could use technology to bring data together in such a way it could then be used by care services, for the benefit of the patient.  This should improve patient outcomes, and if people are supported to manage conditions better themselves, there would be a reduced need for emergency department visits and fewer hospital admissions.    

This project brings together clinical and technical expertise from two major universities and a local technology company that has some of the most advanced and secure data stores in the UK and it will also be working with clinical and managerial staff from across the whole NWC region, as well as our citizens.

What data are being used in this project?

We will first examine data that the NHS routinely collects. This data does not include patient identifiable data because it is anonymised. In phase two we intend to go a step further and link NHS data with data from outside the NHS eg social services.   This will require using patient identifiable data and so individuals will be asked for their consent.

Are the data anonymised?

Phase 1 will use anonymised data ie the data for each person is allocated a code – a pseudonym – that allows the different visits of a person to be linked together without identifying the individual.

Phase 2 will require the use of identifiable data.

What methods are you using to conduct this work?

Analysts from the universities will be examining the data using medical and statistical techniques. This will then be used to advise front line NHS clinical teams who in turn will be able to use this information to provide better outcomes for patients.

Who will benefit from your research?

The intention is to improve the care provided to people with alcohol related conditions.

Bringing the data together in a secure environment will allow analysts to create more reliable statistical data about care provided and the outcomes achieved.

What will be the intended outcome of your research project?

The first phase of the project will be to inform health professionals about what is happening to clinical care in their locality, as compared to other areas. The second phase, when we have consent to link to other data, should offer even more opportunity to define best care and treatments, to implement them and to demonstrate their benefit.

Are there any early findings?

We expect the first reports to be available by 2017.

Are there any comments/additional information you would like to report?

The descriptions above are necessarily brief.  It is important to add that at each step we will be working with patient organisations and the public to ensure that what we are doing is both acceptable to, and for the benefit of, the citizens of the NWC.   There is an active program to recruit patient and public representatives to work alongside the analytical work and more details is on our website ( ) .