Healthcare professionals have a legal duty to share information to support individual care. The law and the Caldicott Principles support professionals to share relevant information in order to provide safe and effective care to patients across different settings.
A joint statement issued by the National Data Guardian (Dr Nicola Byrne), the Information Commissioner (John Edwards) and the Chief Medical Officer for England (Professor Sir Chris Whitty) to all health and care staff on the importance of sharing effectively to support individuals’ care serves as a reminder of the key points – Who? What? Wishes?
The statement said, “We are publishing this statement to encourage frontline workers to share individuals’ health and care information more confidently, to provide them with the best possible care…[and] to prioritise the availability of relevant information at the point of care…”
Whilst it is right to protect confidential data this “should never come at the expense of people’s care” explained the joint statement and urged professionals to review the guidance: Use and share information with confidence. The guidance explains the issues to consider before deciding whether to share information, such as checking whether an individual has objected to the proposed sharing as there are some very specific exceptions where you would not share, such as those relating to the gender history of a person who is transgender or undergoing care and who holds a Gender Recognition Certificate.
The joint statement emphasises that data protection “isn’t a barrier to providing continuous patient care across disciplines or specialities” and that the duty to share information for individual care is as important as the duty to protect confidentiality, as set out in Caldicott Principle 7. The statement makes clear that it is the responsibility of those involved in a person’s care to provide relevant information about them, both within and outside of their own organisations, to ensure that safe and joined-up care can be provided.
Gaining confidence in this area can be difficult – information sharing within the health and social care often involves confidential and sensitive data. If you are concerned about an information sharing situation or require support with data sharing, do get in touch.
We can deliver training and or support you with your data sharing decisions. And that’s why we have developed a Data protection hub to provide you with assistance with making decisions about sharing information.
Our content explained
Every piece of content we create is correct on the date it’s published but please don’t rely on it as legal advice. If you’d like to speak to us about your own legal requirements, please contact one of our expert lawyers.