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Dame Fiona Caldicott named as National Data Guardian

Dame Fiona Caldicott has been appointed to a new role as National Data Guardian for health and care, where she will become the “the patients’ champion on security of personal medical information”. 

As part of her new role, 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.

Currently Dame Fiona and her panel, the Independent Information Governance Oversight, provide advice to the government on healthcare information sharing, but the latest appointment strengthens her powers. 

In particular, if she is concerned by how an organisation is sharing data she can refer concerns directly to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to investigate and sanction where necessary. 

Secretary of state for health Jeremy Hunt said: “I am delighted that Dame Fiona Caldicott, who has done so much outstanding work in this area, has agreed to be the first National Data Guardian for health and care. She has agreed that it will be her responsibility to raise concerns publicly about improper data use.

“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.” 

The announcement comes the same day as the ‘Personalised Health and Care 2020’ report, which wants to see all NHS patient and care records being digital, real-time and interoperable by the end of the decade. 

It also states that “subject to ongoing evaluation, and with full safeguards, the programme to link hospital and GP data will be extended nationally to other care settings to enable safe data-sharing for better analysis of care outcomes”. 

However, when making the appointment of the new National Data Guardian, it was stated that no data will be extracted from GP practices as part of the programme until Dame Fiona has advised the secretary of state that she is satisfied with the proposals and safeguards. 

Dame Fiona added: “Everyone should feel confident that their healthcare information is shared safely. 

“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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