Commissioners & Data sharing. A powerful tool to be kept under tight control

There appears to be a lot of enthusiasm with commissioning groups for the use of information to empower the patient and to assist with the commissioning process.

At the same time the use of information is a 'risky' business and commissioners must come to grips with the governance issues involved.  Sharing information lawfully and properly has to be done within a tight governance and regulated framework. Get it wrong and patients will lose confidence in the system and commissioners will face public pressure and penalties from the Information Commissioner.

Doubtless you will be aware of the recent reports by Dame Fiona Caldicott who is undertaking a review for the Secretary of State on information sharing and information governance.  This is of course extremely important (especially in light of the new DH information strategy).  There is significant concern amongst individuals in respect of the care the NHS takes in connection with their personal data.  Issues of confidentiality and sufficient safeguards will become fundamentally important.  In addition it is often the case that data is not shared when it is in the subject?s interest that it should be.  Many individuals find that their healthcare information has not been shared which can of course be detrimental to their health.  Some find this hard to believe though it arises from the tension within the NHS between the security of information and ensuring that there is appropriate information sharing.

It is therefore timely that the NHS Future Forum should suggest a review and greater clarity about these matters and certainly given the changes in the recent Health and Social Care Act 2012.  For those interested in participating in the review they should contact Dame Fiona Caldicott directly on fiona.caldicott@dh.gsi.gov.uk.  

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