HEALTH professionals should have the confidence to share information in their patients’ best interests provided they stick to a number of key principles, the Caldicott2 review has found.
Patients should also be able to see an audit trail showing everyone who has access to their private data and they should be copied into all communications between different health and social care teams.
A number of findings and recommendations are set out in Dame Fiona Caldicott’s report Information: to share or not to share which was published on Friday.
The review panel noted that one problem was a lack of understanding often meant staff did not have “the ability or confidence to appropriately share information with others”, with many being told not to share as a “safe option”. They called for additional information governance training at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels to tackle the issue.
Health minister Jeremy Hunt said: “The Caldicott review has been about striking the right balance between sharing people’s health and care information to improve services and develop new treatments while respecting the privacy and wishes of the patient.
“If patients are to see the benefits of these changes we must respect the wishes of the small number of people who would prefer not to share this information. I firmly believe that technology can transform the quality of healthcare in this country, but we must always respect the fact that this is very personal information about an individual.”
The report said the key test for health and social care professionals, information governance experts and the provider should be: “Have I placed good patient care and patient satisfaction at the centre of my decision making?”
It went on to add that there should be “no surprises” for the patient as to who a record has been shared with. People must have “the fullest possible access to all electronic care records about them, across the whole health and social care system, without charge.”
Caldicott2 was set up in response to a 2011 NHS Future Forum report looking at government plans to reorganise and reform the health service. The Future Forum highlighted the increasing importance of technology in delivering patient care and the accompanying concerns about data security and confidentiality breaches. Caldicott2’s main aim was to ensure an “appropriate balance” between protecting patient information and the sharing of information to improve care.
The review sets out a revised list of Caldicott principles which include justifying any decision to share information, only using confidential data if necessary, using only the minimum necessary amount of confidential data, sharing information on a need-to-know basis, complying with the law, and ensuring all staff are aware of their responsibilities when handling personal information. The final principle states that the duty to share information can be as important as the duty to protect confidentiality.
Dame Fiona is to chair an independent panel that will oversee the implementation of the review’s recommendations and provide advice on information governance.