Collaborations between public and private organisations that work

Tim Sheppard and Shayma Ali from IQVIA, a human data science company, on building on the learnings from collaborations that emerged during the pandemic to support public health challenges today and in the future
From left: Tim Sheppard and Shayma Ali


Solving the biggest health and social care challenges in the UK today—and being prepared to respond quickly to crises in the future—is a major task for government, but public sector organisations are not alone in this mission. Civil Service World sat down with Tim Sheppard, IQVIA’s SVP & General Manager for Northern Europe, and Shayma Ali, Senior Director, Public Sector Solutions, to discuss the problem-solving capabilities of public and private approaches that emerged in the pandemic and how collaboration across various public sector bodies, academics, and private companies with key skills can be the key moving forward.

IQVIA, a global provider of advanced analytics, technology solutions, and clinical research services to the life sciences industry, employs 82,000 people globally, including more than 6,000 in the UK. IQVIA is the third largest employer in the life sciences sector, with offices across the country.

Ali explained how the company has branched out into the public sector in recent years: “The population health surveillance service we delivered during the pandemic to the UK government bolstered our belief that we can support transformation across departments in the provision of pandemic resilience and digital health. We have learnt a lot from the pandemic in these areas, and we want to help other departments to learn from their successes, too.”

Ali said IQVIA’s workforce of data scientists, epidemiologists, healthcare practitioners and analysts can be valuable to public sector bodies. She noted that IQVIA has worked on several vaccines’ clinical trials and that Sir Patrick Vallance recognised its work on the Covid-19 Infection Survey (CIS) as a ‘landmark study’ of a population health surveillance programme.

Sheppard explained how CIS became an exemplar of public-private collaboration. “Starting in March 2020, the government urgently needed to understand the number of citizens infected—in near real-time—to monitor the spread of the infection, and it wanted to canvas 179,000 households every two weeks across the country. As Covid vaccines were created, the survey was also able to monitor their response and their impact on new variants in 2021.

“A project of this scale would have been impossible without the collaboration between numerous government departments. Together, the team led by Helena Jordan, Senior Director of Operations, provided subject matter expertise, technology capabilities, human resources, and the nationwide reach the survey needed, not only at pace but at an unprecedented scale.”

The expertise doesn’t stop there. IQVIA also provides DHSC with Covid-19 Medicines Supply Chain Analytics, and supports life sciences as well as the pharmaceutical industry and government departments with briefings and detailed insights into supply and demand for medicines, clinical research, and policy responses. “This cross-industry collaboration and insight sharing are valuable to all,” said Ali.

Sheppard concurred and noted insights and intelligence are essential to tackle health and social care challenges. “There is a lot of data available to the public system and different government bodies, but not everyone knows what to do with it, as the civil service survey we conducted with Dods Research reveals,” he said.

CSW: What did you want to find out with the survey?
TS: We wanted to understand the current and future public health priorities across government and asked Dods Research to survey 250 civil servants early this year.

SA: We also wanted to identify civil servants’ data confidence and access to healthcare data to explore how departments can unlock its value and enable tech-led transformation to improve public health outcomes.

CSW: What are the key findings?
The survey highlighted the importance of real-time, good-quality data and uncovered opportunities for public health initiatives. For example, although 40% of respondents are quite confident when using real-world healthcare data to improve outcomes, 16% recognised they need greater support on data and intelligence.

CSW: Where does collaboration fit moving forward?
TS: The survey shows that helping civil servants understand how to use these broad data sets to answer specific public health questions, and helping them create solutions to the challenges, is an opportunity for collaboration. Having the data insights to support interventions on some of these public health issues can help drive productivity up, assisting the nation in returning to economic growth very quickly. We often find data assets or initiatives in one organisation may be unknown to another, where they could be used for public benefit.

CSW: Why are these partnerships important?
SA: Partnerships around common objectives are a benefit to tackling issues, as we saw through the pandemic. The health and well-being of staff within government, improving local population health outcomes, health inequalities, and planning for future pandemics and the threats posed by antimicrobial resistance can also benefit from partnerships. Together we can work on healthcare issues that may not all sit within one department but others with a vast population, such as the Ministry of Defence, the Department of Justice, and the DWP.

TS: The world is facing several health challenges, and these are not just pandemics, the backlog the NHS is facing, obesity and cardiovascular disease, mental health and age-related neurodegenerative diseases, not to mention inequalities in access to treatments, as highlighted in the NHS’s Core20PLUS5, are all challenges that need collaboration with the private sector to bring subject matter expertise and capacities to the table.

CSW: What capabilities can be strengthened with more collaboration between organisations?
SA: We aim to share experience and problem-solving capabilities. We can combine the knowledge and insights of many diverse approaches to tackle population health challenges. For example, bringing together the massive amounts of publicly available data in the UK, including proprietary data assets of government departments and companies underpinned by appropriate governance, can be used to create solutions to help inform decision-making and support better outcomes for departments looking to address topics such as inequalities, pandemic preparedness, and economic recovery.

TS: Civil servants named ‘Health inequalities and well-being solutions’ as their top current priority for improving public and/or employee health in the Dods research. As the NHS and other government departments endeavour to identify health inequalities and develop action plans to reduce disparities, real-world data plays a pivotal role in identifying and delivering effective solutions.

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