Making information work for everyone

Simplifying information governance to empower staff and reassure people in their care

fiona and ian pics.png

This is a joint blog by Dame Fiona Caldicott, National Data Guardian for Health and Social Care in England (NDG) and Ian Hulme, Director of Regulatory Assurance, at the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

There are some recurrent messages that the National Data Guardian for Health and Social Care (NDG) and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) hear from those who are responsible for using and safeguarding health and care data. One of those is that overlapping laws, codes and guidance relating to that data can be difficult to navigate at times. 

We know that health and care staff want to do the right thing and to justify the trust that the public has in them to treat their personal information with respect. Doctors, nurses, social workers and others know how vital it is that patients and service users feel able to discuss sensitive matters with them and be confident that their personal information will be handled appropriately. We also know that the same patients and service users want their information to be shared with others in care teams to enable safe, joined-up care. Health and care services cannot provide effective services without this trust. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen good examples of information sharing to support the efforts to tackle the pandemic. Our organisations have worked with others to achieve this, with messages from both the ICO and from the NDG making clear that information governance is not a barrier and that appropriate data sharing can take place.

The need for such a co-ordinated approach from key organisations with a remit around the use of health and care was behind the formation of the Health and Care Information Governance Panel. Both the ICO and the NDG are part of this group, which has been convened by NHSX to co-ordinate strategic information governance policymaking with the aim of ensuring clearer and more consistent advice. 

It has today launched an online portal which aims to provide a one stop shop of national information governance guidance for frontline staff, information governance professionals and the public. The organisations involved will retain individual responsibilities and independence, but we hope this approach will help to provide more clarity, consistency and simplicity.

As time goes on, the arrangements in place to use data to tackle COVID-19 will need to be reviewed and may need to change. We look forward to working with the rest of the HCIGP to do this and to meet the demand for clearer guidance about how data may be used for individuals’ care and for other purposes, such as research and planning.

We hope people will find it encouraging to hear that about the work taking place to ensure that data can be used appropriately to make health and social care is as effective as possible.  

ndg ico blog logos.png