On Wednesday night, Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt told the Cambridge Health Network that patient confidentiality is used as an excuse by some people who want to resist greater use of digital information in the NHS. This comment did not provoke the sharp intake of breath that you might have expected – perhaps because it was made to a room populated by a stellar cast of chief execs and senior clinicians from the private sector, charity world and NHS who were attracted by the event’s theme: the Health Technology Revolution. Or perhaps because, with Caldicott 2 coming up, we are getting to a point where we are ready for a more reasoned debate about the right balance to be struck between protecting patient confidentiality and making proper use of data to improve care and save lives.
When that debate moves down from lofty principles to real life practicalities, it all starts seeming rather obvious.The North West London Integrated Care Pilot and Coordinate My Care are two great examples of data-sharing that is proper in every sense. Both feature in a forthcoming public guide to information-sharing that ZPB is producing for London Connect (see the guide already published on accessing GP records here).
The important thing is to be absolutely explicit and transparent about information governance – as Tim Kelsey, who shared the stage with the SoS, emphasised. And in meeting the possibly more difficult challenge of securing the support of clinicians and overcoming the resistance Jeremy Hunt identifies.
The fact that a comment from the floor that you could save ten lives for every ethicist you shoot raised the biggest titters of the night needn’t get in the way of this reasoned debate…