This guidance has been reviewed by the Health and Care Information Governance Panel, including the ICO and NDG.

The panel exists to simplify information governance guidance. Have we done a good job? Let us know at england.IGPolicyTeam@nhs.net.

COVID-19 IG advice for the social care sector

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This advice is specifically for the social care sector on working in different ways during the COVID-19 outbreak.  

Our general advice on ways of working during the COVID-19 outbreak, including for those who work in health and care organisations and IG professionals, is here.


How you can share information

Email and data security and protection toolkit (DSPT)

To help communication for COVID-19, Data Security and Protection Toolkit compliance requirements are being relaxed and NHSmail roll-out sped up. For all who have, or get, NHSMail accounts MS Teams access will be switched on.

NHSX, NHS England and NHS Digital are working to make the process for accrediting secure email services, easier and faster. It is important that social care is able to access secure email for COVID-19 as quickly as possible.

Mobile messaging

It is absolutely fine to use mobile messaging to communicate with colleagues and people in your care as needed. It is also fine to use commercial, off-the-shelf applications such as WhatsApp and Telegram, where there is no practical alternative and the benefits outweigh the risk.

The important thing, as always, is to consider what type of information you are sharing and with whom. As much as possible limit the use of people’s personal/confidential information.

Video conferencing

We encourage the use of video conferencing to carry out consultations with people in your care, or meetings with colleagues across social care and health services. This could help to reduce the spread of COVID-19. It is fine to use video conferencing tools such as Skype, WhatsApp or Facetime as well as commercial products designed specifically for this purpose.

The consent of the person you care for may be implied by them accepting the invite and entering the consultation. But you should safeguard people’s personal/confidential information in the same way you would with any other consultation.

Home working

You may well need to work from home – for example, when self-isolating without symptoms.

If you are working from home and using your own equipment you should check that your internet access is secure (e.g. use a Virtual Private Network and/or if possible avoid public wi-fi) and that any security features are in use.

If you are taking any physical documents home with you that contain people’s personal/confidential information, you should also ensure the security of these documents at your home and when travelling.

Using your own device

You can use your own devices to support video conferencing for consultations, mobile messaging and home working where there is no practical alternative.

Reasonable steps to ensure this is safe include: 

  • setting a strong password 
  • using secure channels to communicate e.g. tools/apps that use encryption
  • not storing people’s personal/confidential information on the device unless absolutely necessary and appropriate security is in place.

Information should be safely transferred to the appropriate health and care record as soon as it is practical to do so.

Further information

If you have questions about information sharing, data protection or information governance and are unsure of the appropriate action to take, you can contact the NHSX IG team.

For further advice and support on technology and data protection tailored for the social care sector, please visit the Digital Social Care website here.

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