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Caldicott to recommend data-sharing duty

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The Caldicott review into information governance in health and social care is likely to recommend a new duty to share information between agencies where it is in a patient’s best interests.

Health reporting HSJ and LGC logo

In an exclusive interview with LGC and its sister title Health Service Journal Dame Fiona Caldicott, who has been leading the review for the past year, said the six information governance principles she formulated in 1997 were still relevant today.

Her previous review led to the introduction of “Caldicott guardians” responsible for data security in each organisation. However, she said her current review would propose two modifications to the rules.

“We’ve suggested a new principle which is about the duty to share information in the interests of the patients’ and clients’ care,” Dame Fiona said.

The move would balance a tendency towards caution over sensitive information, even where sharing it between health or care providers could lead to better care, she said.

Dame Fiona said NHS staff had “gone a little too far towards worrying about confidentiality in some instances, [rather than] thinking, ‘is it my duty in relation to this person in front of me to share some information about them, to discuss that with them so there are no surprises, but to make sure that what is necessary for their ongoing care is shared with the appropriate people?’”

The duty to share would apply to NHS and social care providers and commissioners.

However, she acknowledged that the IT systems in place in many trusts at the moment would be a barrier to information sharing. “I’m not suggesting for a moment that everything in this report could be achieved in the next few months,” she said.

IT systems “will need a lot more work going forward to achieve what we want for integrated care,” she said.

Dame Fiona also said the current powers available to the Information Commissioner to fine NHS bodies for data security breaches were “sufficient”.

The Caldicott review is expected to report back to health secretary Jeremy Hunt by the end of March. It is currently expected to be published, along with the health secretary’s response, on April 17.

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