Guidance on maintaining or improving information flows and structures during the NHS’s Shifting the Balance of Power programme has been published by the Department of Health.

Part of a steady flow of guidance from the DH aimed at smoothing the transition in April to the new NHS structure of strategic health authorities and primary care/hospital trusts, the latest advice on information identifies six broad objectives:

• The delivery of “Franchise Plans” for information and IT by the new strategic health authorities. In practice this means preparing plans that should demonstrate that StHAs have effective mechanisms in place to ensure that adequate and appropriate local IM&T planning has taken place at a PCT/Trust level to meet national IM&T targets for 2002/03.

• Improve information governance so that security and confidentiality is properly addressed in the new structures.

• Improve data quality so that data captured is right first time at the point where it is recorded.

• Ensure continuity of key data and information flows across the NHS and to the Department of Health. Six key data flows are identified including those to support: DH performance management statistical and finance requirements, social care requirements and the continuity of information provided to the public.

• To manage the transfer of functions and responsibilities so that, whilst the balance of power and information management shifts towards the frontline, the information needs of the new organisations are met.

• To preserve as far as possible public health data. With the removal of the regional offices and old-style health authorities, a number of well established information flows will change and new ones be created. The flow of public health data needs to be preserved as far as possible, says the guidance, adding that the role of the Public Health Observatories to support public health information requirements will need to be considered.