The NHS has refined its processes for publishing Hospital Episode Statistics (HES), making the latest dataset available more than a month earlier than last year's equivalent.

The health service’s data and IT provider, NHS Digital, said the publication earlier this month of the April 2016 - January 2017 HES statistics had its quickest ever turnaround.

By releasing the data earlier NHS Digital hopes to facilitate more timely assessment of the delivery of care and support for local planning.

It also said the move should help further inform patient choice and shape frontline NHS services, though the data’s earlier inclusion in websites such as NHS Choices.

The improvements will also benefit researchers and other third parties who have access to it via the Data Access Request (DARS) process.

John Varlow, NHS Digital's director of data analysis and SRO for the HES accelerator initiative, said: "The process improvements stem from a six-month project to review the coding and ICT infrastructure that underpins our HES datasets.

"Our expert analysts and technicians have assessed the component parts,  identified potential adjustments within each area and are now transitioning to a  new system that will continue to evolve as further efficiencies are identified."

HES is derived from Commissioning Data Sets, which cover patient admissions, Out Patients and A&E, and provides records-level detail for all acute NHS trusts in England.

Daniel Ray, director of data science at NHS Digital, added: "HES data is extremely important for a number of purposes, and being able to access the latest figures at an earlier stage is a significant benefit.

"It means that analysis is based on information that is closer to real-time, which will ultimately impact in improved care outcomes."

NHS Digital’s work saw changes made to the systems and processes it uses to collate and code collected data and the body plans to continue to review, develop and replace its processes to achieve further efficiencies for the data it receives.