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Data and Trust: How far should data sharing go between public sector bodies?

In a recent interview with The Independent, National Data Guardian, Dr Nicola Byrne, outlined her concern at government plans to force the NHS to share confidential data with police forces across England. The legislation could impose a duty on NHS organisations to share private patient data with police, which Dr Byrne believes could “erode trust and confidence, deter people from sharing information, and even from presenting for clinical care.”

Against a backdrop of increasing cyber security threats and greater public awareness around data security, how would this transfer of information impact your confidence and trust in healthcare bodies?

There have been several examples where the sharing of personal data across public bodies in the UK has been a force for good. For example, Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hubs (MASHs) were established to prevent the information silos that contributed to the deaths of the likes of Daniel Pelka and Baby P. By improving information sharing and enabling coordinated action between the likes of social care, education and police, MASHs have enabled earlier intervention in abuse cases.

The legislation being considered would ultimately be used to prevent serious violence, though it is seemingly unclear as to what information would be covered by the bill, with Dr Byrne calling for it to be ‘debated openly and in public’.

Several years ago, this sort of legislation could have flown under the radar of the public, but with a heightened awareness of where and how data is stored and used, combined with growing concern about cyberattacks, there is surely a risk that this could lead to less information being shared by the patient in the first place.

Let us know what you think in the comment section below. Will this reduce serious violence or will it simply impact the doctor and patient contract of total confidentiality?

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