Intended for healthcare professionals


Using NHS data to improve health

BMJ 2016; 354 doi: (Published 14 July 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;354:i3852
  1. N M R Perrin, head of policy
  1. Wellcome Trust, London NW1 2BE
  1. n.perrin{at}

Data guardian demands much more extensive dialogue with public

The information in health records has great potential to improve the delivery of healthcare and to advance medical research. But the public and healthcare professionals must have confidence that access to patient data is appropriately managed. Two reports published last week take an important step towards this goal.1 2

Last September, the secretary of state for health commissioned the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to review current approaches to data security across the NHS and, in parallel, asked the national data guardian, Fiona Caldicott, to develop data security standards and a method of ensuring compliance. Caldicott was also asked to recommend a new consent model for data sharing in the NHS and social care. Both reports were published on 6 July and led to the immediate closure of the NHS England’s controversial data sharing programme 3

This is the third time Caldicott has examined these issues. In 1997, she chaired a review on patient confidentiality, which led to the introduction of Caldicott guardians in every NHS organisation.5 In 2013, she called for a better balance between protecting and sharing patient information to improve health.6 In her most recent report, she highlights her frustrations that so little has improved since then.

Data security

Both new reviews found widespread commitment to keeping data secure across the …

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