Long-time defender of NHS patient confidentiality Dame Fiona Caldicott has accepted the Department of Health’s invitation to become the country’s first ‘National Data Guardian’.
She was first appointed to the role as long ago as late 2014, but it was only at the end of 2018 that the legislation to establish such a position in law was passed. The idea: have someone in an official position to reassure the public someone’s there to ensure their private health and care information is securely safeguarded and used appropriately.
Caldicott now has the power to issue official guidance about the processing of health and adult social care data, with the Government noting that public bodies – from hospitals, GPs, care homes, planners and commissioners of services – will now have to be aware of all data protection guidance that is relevant to them.
In fact, non-public sector organisations, such as private companies or charities delivering services for the NHS or publicly funded adult social care, will have to as well.
“The placing of the National Data Guardian role on a statutory footing sends an important signal that there is an independent champion for patients and the public in relation to how health and adult social care data is used,” the Dame, who led the landmark Caldicott Committee on patient identifiable data in the NHS in the mid-1990s, said.
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“I look forward to taking up the role on this new basis and continuing to work alongside others to build public trust that patient data will be used appropriately and effectively.
“This significant development would not have happened without the contributions of many people and organisations for which I am very grateful; the strong support for the role has been heartening to see.”
Commenting on the news, newly-appointed Health Minister Nicola Blackwood said: “Placing the National Data Guardian on a statutory footing strengthens the role as an independent and authoritative voice for the patient on how their data is used in the health and care system.
“It is right that patients are confident they have a strong champion, not only to advise them but also to challenge the system and ensure that confidential information is safeguarded and used appropriately.
“In establishing this role, Dame Fiona has firmly rooted the National Data Guardian within the health and care system as an essential building block for building public trust for the use of patient data.”