Information-sharing in public services: Improving inter-agency coordination and governance
Submitting InstitutionNewcastle University
Unit of AssessmentBusiness and Management Studies
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Medical and Health Sciences: Public Health and Health Services
Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services: Business and Management
Studies In Human Society: Policy and Administration
Summary of the impact
Research at Newcastle has made a significant contribution to the public
services modernisation agenda in the areas of inter-agency working and
information-sharing. The research showed that effective
information-sharing required not just that different information systems
are made compatible with each other, but also that people from different
professional cultures are enabled to work together through a common
understanding of information governance issues. In active collaboration
with a range of service providers, a number of processes and tools were
developed for the significant benefit of service users. They have been
implemented in a variety of policy settings, including children's services
and adult social care, and have informed current programmes funded by the
The Centre for Knowledge, Innovation, Technology and Enterprise (KITE) at
Newcastle University is home to a network of leaders in the area of the
governance of information and complex relationships within the health and
social care sectors. Those whose work is featured here are the Director of
KITE, Rob Wilson (1995-), James Cornford (1988-2009), Sue Baines
(1993-2007), Ian McLoughlin (1998-2008), Mike Martin (visitor 1994-),
Roger Vaughan (1995-2007), Sarah Walsh (1999-2009), Paul Richter (2004-)
and Gregory Maniatopoulos (2004-2008).
Understanding the relationship between service providers and
Since 2000, Newcastle researchers have been studying the relationship
between service providers and information systems. The platform for this
work was the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
(EPSRC)-funded Advanced Multi-Agency Service Environments (AMASE) project
(Grant 1). The study adopted an action research approach, a key element of
which was the active involvement of service managers and practitioners.
The research challenged the conventional view that multi-agency working
could be achieved simply by integrating technical information systems.
Emphasis was placed instead on the relationship between the systems and
those responsible for the governance of information.
Building on AMASE, an investigation was undertaken of the implementation
of a complex data system, Virtual Electronic Social Care Records (VESCR)
(Grant 2) (2). Through a series of focus groups and workshops with
service providers, a working prototype of VESCR was produced. The
Newcastle research contested the notion that one single information system
would be suitable for all service providers, finding in contrast that all
inter-agency communication channels required interaction and facilitation
between practitioners from different professional backgrounds (1-6).
Developing the Framework for Multi Agency Environments (FAME)
The relationships developed through AMASE also led to the team being
invited to become part of the FAME project funded by the Department for
Communities and Local Government (DCLG) (Grant 3). In its examination of
the governance issues involved in data-sharing, this research confirmed
the importance of the relationship between different service providers in
situations in which the sensitivity of information makes client
confidentiality an issue. In 2007 the research team began to develop FAME
to provide local authorities and their partners with the tools to
implement partnership-based multi-agency working. The approach guides
teams through a series of stages, from mission statement to technical
Co-ordinating care: Identity management and service directories
The work on VESCR and FAME led to a range of long-term relationships at
national and regional level. Work on the Children's Services Directories
project (Grant 6), supplemented by consultancy for collaborating
organisations, focused on the challenges of service co-ordination with
reference to service directories, information-sharing, recording practice
and identity management (4). The research explains the complexity
involved in the design of secure, ethical and responsible governance of
information systems. Issues to be resolved included the precise
information to be stored about an individual, the ownership of that
information, and the terms on which it is shared.
Personalisation of care for older people
Based upon their distinctive research in the field, Wilson et al.
were invited to become part of consortia examining issues relating to the
personalisation of care for older people. Two projects were awarded, the
first of which sought to create knowledge to accelerate the implementation
of Telecare in England (5) (Grant 4). The second, Older People's
E-Services at Home (OLDES) (Grant 5), was a joint European Framework
research project in the Municipality of Bologna and the Azienda Unità
Sanitaria Locale di Bologna (2007-2010) (6). The OLDES scheme
trialled an electronic `digital companion' in the form of a low-cost PC
that provided health and entertainment services for older people. The
Newcastle team worked to ensure that developments were grounded in the
parameters of the social and health care system, the cultures and
economies of the specific pilot, as well as other European public service
contexts (6). The latest extension of this work was the completion
of an evaluation of the Provider Development Innovation Fund for Adult
Social Care (2010-12) (Grant 7), which explored the provider market and
personalised adult social care.
References to the research
3. Baines, S., Wilson, R., Walsh, S. (2010). `Seeing the full picture?
Technologically enabled multi-agency working in health and social care'. New
Technology, Work & Employment, 25(1), 19-33. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-005X.2009.00236.x.
(ABS List 2010 3*). REF2 Output: 154819.
4. Wilson R, Martin M, Walsh S, Richter P. (2011). `Re-mixing the digital
economies of care in the voluntary and community sector (VCS): Governing
identity and information sharing in the mixed economy of care for children
and young people'. Social Policy and Society, 10(3), 379-391. DOI:
REF2 Output: 162730.
5. May, C., Finch, T., Cornford, J., Exley, C., Gately, C., Kirk, S.,
Jenkings, K., Osbourne, J., Robinson, A., Rogers, A., Wilson, R., Mair, F.
(2011). `Integrating telecare for chronic disease management in the
community: What needs to be done?' BMC Health Services Research,
11(1), 131 (pp1-11). DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1472-6963-11-131.
6. Wilson, R., Maniatopoulos, G., Martin, M., McLoughlin, I. (2012).
`Innovating relationships: Taking a co-productive approach to the shaping
of telecare services for older people'. Information, Communication and
Society, 15(7), 1136-1163.
(ABS List 2010 1*).
Table of Relevant Grants/Consultancy projects
||Period of Grant
||Value to Newcastle
||Ian McLoughlin / James Cornford
||Advanced multi-agency service environments (AMASE)
||Rob Wilson / Ian McLoughlin
||Virtual electronic social care record (VESCR)
||Department of Health (DH) / Newcastle City Council
||Rob Wilson / Ian McLoughlin / James Cornford / Sue Baines
||Framework for multi-agency environments (FAME)
||Carl May / Rob Wilson / James Cornford
||Integrating telecare systems for chronic disease management in the
||DH / National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)
||Older people’s e-services at home (OLDES)
||Rob Wilson / Sue Baines
||Children’s service directories project
||Evaluation of the NE adult social care innovation programme and
Details of the impact
The work undertaken at Newcastle has had impact in linking together the
human and the technical aspects of information-sharing. It has been
particularly significant in two ways: changing the practice of
practitioners who work with each other and with each other's information
systems; and developing the governance relationships between
practitioners, information systems and service users.
Improved information-sharing and governance
The findings from the AMASE and VESCR projects allowed a wide range of
practitioners to address both the human and the technical aspects of
information-sharing in the area of electronic social care records. For
example, the Director of the Regional Youth Work Unit confirmed that the
research has "contributed to stimulating thought across the sector in
the North East. It has inspired deeper thought about the issues and
implications of information-sharing, not just the delivery of services.
It has enabled practitioners to be able to have conversations with those
who are having the new ideas. The key contribution of Rob's [Wilson's]
work is that the systems and technology are of less importance, it is
about the governance of the information, this has to be the starting
point of conversations about information-sharing." (IMP1).
The growing reach of the research impact is demonstrated through the
Newcastle team's collaboration with Socitm, the national professional
association for ICT and related professionals in the public and third
sectors. Their Director of Policy and Research commented that "in May
2011, Socitm published Planting the Flag, a strategy document
for the reform of public services enabled by information and
communication technology. Of the six key issues identified, the first
three have drawn on the research of Rob [Wilson] and the team,
specifically relating to information governance, information management
and transparency, and digital access and inclusion. Additionally, Socitm
collaborates with the Cabinet Office and the Data Handling
Guidelines produced with the Cabinet Office have been influenced by
the research of Rob and the team." (IMP2). The influence of this
work has been confirmed by influential policy think-tank DEMOS, in a 2012
report which makes direct reference to the Newcastle work: "Wilson et
al. [(4)] outline how reconciling real-world identity
with its data representation can strain relationships between a service
user...a large VCS organisation and the social care system" (IMP3p59).
Enhanced inter-agency working and information governance
The importance of FAME (IMP4) as a means of facilitating
inter-agency working and information governance has been recognised at
national policy level. It informed the plans of the Office of the Deputy
Prime Minister (ODPM) for co-ordinated services, with a specific
endorsement as follows: "We recommend that further work be done by
ODPM and local authorities to develop more protocol agreement frameworks
for local partnerships along [the lines of] the FAME ... model" (IMP5p61).
Although this was published in 2005 and there has since been a change in
government, FAME continues to influence the extent and nature of
integration across the public services. This can be seen in a current
national exemplar programme, Improving Information Sharing and Management
(IISaM), established for organisations supporting families with complex
needs. The IISaM website states: "Throughout the IISaM project, we have
been keen to learn from the experiences of others, whether to understand
and share good practice or to develop case studies. Indeed, the
`information sharing journey' framework which we have used as a basis
for the toolkit came from research undertaken on behalf of DCLG a few
years ago. We have picked up learning from the FAME project, which
provided a framework for the development of multi-agency collaboration"
At the local authority level, FAME featured in the Newcastle Plan for
Children and Young People 2006-2009 (IMP7p51) and the Lead
Specialist Children's Health at Newcastle City Council commented in 2013
that "I think the work with the FAME toolkit meant there were
individuals committed to the partnership agenda. We have since added the
voluntary sector and now have a real culture of partnership working
across children's services. Now the Wellbeing for Life Board is gaining
from the lessons learned from the Children's Trust about how to make
things work" (IMP8).
Commissioning and personalised care
The OLDES project (Grant 5) aimed to improve the efficiency and
effectiveness of support services for older people. CUP2000 S.p.A is an
industrial company, a market leader in Italy in electronic healthcare and
Internet networks. Its General Director wrote to Wilson et al.
following the project to recognise the impact of their work: "OLDES
was a very important project for CUP2000 and our partners...as it helped
us to improve our knowledge of the ICTs and information-sharing needed
for the quality of life for frail elders in managing at home. Your team
at Newcastle University did fantastic work on the analysis of the
situation, and assured that the OLDES developments were close to the
workings of people and organisations of the social and health care
system in Bologna including helping us with issues of
information-sharing and the use of the federation in ICT to help
agencies co-ordinate for older people. This meant that we were able to
continue and expand the work of OLDES in following developments...funded
by the Regional Government and the EU" (IMP9).
On the basis of an action research project (Grant 7) Wilson and Martin
made recommendations to the North East Procurement Organisation (NEPO) as
part of the national framework for developing e-marketplace platforms for
personalised care budgets. NEPO is using the project's findings to make a
case to government on the commissioning of services in relation to the
current White Paper, Caring for Our Future, which sets a mandate for
better information to be provided by local authorities on their social
services by 2014/15. NEPO's Senior Regional Category Specialist commented:
"[Wilson's] research has changed the thinking of NEPO — from a system
approach (basically buying a system that can become an e-marketplace)
compared to now a system architecture approach where you have a much
broader view of the challenges involved in developing an e-marketplace
and now consider what the solution should look like (rather than
previously had been focused on buying an off the shelf solution)" (IMP10).
Sources to corroborate the impact
(IMP1) Testimonial from Director, Regional Youth Work Unit.
(IMP2) Testimonial from Director of Policy & Research, Socitm.
(IMP3) DEMOS (2012) The Data Dividend (research by Wilson et al.
cited p 59). Available at:
(IMP4) Vaughan, R., Martin, M., Wilson, R., Gannon-Leary, P., Baines, S.,
Walsh, S., Carr, J., Cornford, J. (2007). FAME Generic Framework Guidance
and Readiness Assessment Toolkit. London: Department for Communities and
Local Government / Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. Available at: http://www.fame-uk.org/about/tool/
(IMP5) Social Exclusion Unit (2005) Inclusion Through Innovation:
Tackling Social Exclusion Through New Technologies, A Social Exclusion
Unit Final Report London: Crown Copyright. Available at: http://dera.ioe.ac.uk/5655/
(IMP6) IISaM website post. Available at: http://informationsharing.co.uk/thinking-about-the-iisam-project-in-a-wider-context-mopan-conference-at-newcastle-university/
(IMP7) Newcastle City Council (2006) The Newcastle Plan for Children
and Young People April 2006-April 2009. Available at:
(IMP8) Testimonial from Lead Specialist, Children's Health at Newcastle
(IMP9) Letter from General Director, CUP2000 S.p.A, March 30th
(IMP10) Testimonial from Senior Regional Category Specialist, NEPO.