HSCIC announces four steps to transparency

The Health & Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) Board is taking steps to improve transparency and build public trust

The Health & Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) Board has announced four steps it will take to improve transparency and build public trust following the recent scrutiny of the release of patient data.

The body was charged by NHS England with managing the proposed Care.data service, and the four steps aim to improve how information is shared.  

Following concerns raised by the Health Select Committee at the end of February, the HSCIC has agreed to an audit by the end of April of all the data releases made by the NHS Information Centre – the predecessor of the HSCIC.

It will also publish a report on 2 April of all data released under the HSCIC, including the legal basis on which data was released and the purpose to which the data is being put. The report will be updated on a quarterly basis and is intended to encourage transparency and public scrutiny of HSCIC decisions.

“The HSCIC is absolutely committed to improving its own transparency and engagement with the public,” said Kingsley Manning, chair of the HSCIC. “In both reviewing the actions of the old NHS Information Centre and publishing our own decisions, we are encouraging public scrutiny.”

Manning also said the intention to strengthen the legal basis of the HSCIC will increase patients' ability to object to the indirect use of their data and reinforce their interests to be at the forefront when decisions on the release of data are made.

The controversy comes after NHS England was forced to postpone by six months the start of its Care.data service to upload full patient medical records from GPs, following widespread criticism that the scheme has not been fully thought through or adequately publicised.

“The clear benefits to patients of research and analysis of medical outcomes must drive our lawful release of data,” he added. “This is why we were created by the Health and Social Care Act 2012.

The HSCIC will also write to all recipients of data releases from the organisation to remind them of data sharing agreements. This will include the HSCIC’s right to audit their use of data released to them, as well as its intention to publish details of their access for public knowledge.

The HSCIC has also announced three new non-executive directors (NEDs) to join the board: John Chisholm, executive chair Genomics England Ltd; Maria Goddard, director of the centre for health economics at the University of York; and Jan Ormondroyd, former chief executive of Bristol City Council, who will be joining Ian Andrews and Nick Partridge as NEDs.

“The appointment of three new non-executive directors will strengthen our board. They join our new chief executive, Andy Williams, who takes up his role in April, in creating a strong and accountable organisation,” said Manning.

Partridge said: “I am glad to take responsibility for reviewing past data releases from the NHS Information Centre and producing a comprehensive report. This is the start of building the public’s trust in the transparency of HSCIC decision-making and that the organisation is operating to the highest standards.

“We must be open and honest about all our decisions and processes. I want to challenge the organisation in order to understand why and when decisions were taken, to ensure that patients and the public can have confidence in the organisation’s work in the future.”

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