New Clause 1 — Oversight role of the National Data Guardian

Part of Prayers – in the House of Commons at 9:48 am on 9 January 2015.

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Photo of Jeremy Lefroy Jeremy Lefroy Conservative, Stafford 9:48, 9 January 2015

I thank Mr Reed for tabling new clause 1, which allows us to debate the issue. I am most grateful to him for his full and constructive engagement with the Bill. A consultation on making the role of the national data guardian statutory is extremely important, and I fully appreciate the reasons why he has tabled the new clause.

I welcome the appointment last November of Dame Fiona Caldicott as the first national data guardian. Her extensive knowledge and experience in this area will ensure strong and visible leadership. She, together with her panel, will act as a source of clear authoritative advice and guidance across the health and care system. The Secretary of State said at the time of her appointment:

“We need to be as determined to guarantee personal data is protected as we are enthusiastic to reap the benefits of sharing it. Dame Fiona will oversee the safe use of people’s personal health and care information and hold organisations to account if there is any cause for concern, ensuring public confidence.”

Let me make it quite clear that the clauses on the duty to share information are not about, which is another issue for another time. My Bill is about data being shared only with those who are directly responsible for an individual’s care for the purposes of that care. Its remit is very restrictive.

A consultation should, as the new clause provides, include reference to

“oversight of data sharing as set out in” the Bill. Understandably, concerns have been raised that a duty to share information might somehow dilute the vital principle of patient confidentiality, which is protected by statute and common law. As I have explained before, I do not believe it will do so.

The seventh of the revised Caldicott principles, as set out in “The Information Governance Review”, is that

“The duty to share information can be as important as the duty to protect patient confidentiality. Health and social care professionals should have the confidence to share information in the best interests of their patients within the framework set out by these principles.”

As was set out on Second Reading and in Committee, clause 3 introduces a duty to share information. That must be done when it is in the person’s best interests and it is

“likely to facilitate the provision to the individual of health services or adult social care”.

Having a statutory duty to share information for the benefit of a person’s care, within the clear limits set out in the Bill, would, alongside the existing strong statutory protection for confidentiality, provide health and social care professionals with the confidence to which Dame Fiona’s report refers.

The consultation on the national data guardian will provide the opportunity to set out how oversight would work for the duty introduced by the Bill, should it become law, under the legislation that will make the role of the NDG statutory. If the consultation cannot be established through a clause in the Bill, which I understand may be the case due to the timing of the general election—the Minister will go into that, I believe—it needs to happen at the earliest possible opportunity.