Dame Fiona Caldicott has agreed to lead a review of the balance between patient confidentiality and information sharing.
The independent review has been set up in response to a recommendation in last year’s NHS Future Forum report on the government’s plans to reorganise and reform the health service.
The NHS Future Forum wanted to see more integrated health and social care services, and suggested that a review of information sharing might be needed to support this.
In a statement issued yesterday by the Department of Health, health secretary Andrew Lansley said: “Ensuring that information is shared for best care and to promote excellent research is central to the government’s vision for the new health and care system, as is protecting confidential information.
“This is a complex issue and I am most grateful that Dame Fiona has accepted the challenge – I can think of no better person to complete the review.”
Dame Fiona led a working group on “the protection and use of patient information” in the late-1990s that established many of the principles of information governance that are in use in the NHS today.
These include the appointment of Caldicott Guardians, or senior people responsible for protecting the confidentiality of patient and service-user information and enabling appropriate information sharing in NHS organisations.
The latest review will start by establishing an expert panel that will determine its detailed scope and priorities. The DH said it expected the review to be completed this year, after which it will respond to its recommendations.
Dame Fiona said that since her committee’s report in 1997, it had become clear that “there is sometimes a lack of understanding about the rules on information sharing.”
She said this had sometimes led to excessive disclosure and sometimes blocked initiatives that could benefit patients.
“We need to examine when and how to seek and record consent, to support the flow of information to enhance patient and citizen care," she added.