National Data Guardian appointed to monitor the security of digital health records

Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt is expected to create the role of National Data Guardian for health and care, responsible for keeping patients’ digital records secure as part of the NHS’ digital programme, and is set to appoint independent expert Dame Fiona Caldicott.

Mr Hunt will say, “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.”

The National Data Guardian will be able to intervene if she is concerned by how an organisation is sharing data and will work in tandem with the Independent Information Governance Oversight. Dame Caldicott will be able to refer concerns directly to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) who will investigate and offer recommendations for improvements, those that do not act will be fined and possibly lose the right to share personal data.

No data will be extracted from GP practices as part of the care data programme until the Secretary of State has been advised that the National Data Guardian is satisfied with the safeguards and procedures in place.

Mr Hunt, in outlining the legal framework of the new position, is expected to say, “I intend to put the National Data Guardian on a legal footing at the earliest opportunity, but the CQC and ICO have decided to sanction organisations that do not comply with her recommendations even before that legislation is passed so patients will benefit immediately from the security of a much tougher and more transparent regime.”

Dame Fiona Caldicott, the first National Data Guardian commented on the role, “as the first National Data Guardian I am committed to holding the health and social care system to account and acting on behalf of patients and care users.”

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