An alliance of West London clinical commissioning groups is developing a memorandum of understanding to improve data sharing between the area’s GP practices.

The group has held its first governance meeting to discuss its plans, which have been praised by national data guardian Dame Fiona Caldicott and the Independent Information Governance Oversight Panel.

Laurie Slater, Hammersmith and Fulham CCG’s information governance lead, told EHI News that GP practices in his area had “converged” on a single system – TPP’s SystmOne – with a view to learning how to better share data in the community.

Slater said the Central London, West London, Hammersmith and Fulham, Hounslow and Ealing CCGs then formed a collaborative group.

“There are a couple of million patients looked after using the same software system for GPs, and that lends itself to interoperability work at the GP level.”

The collaboration’s focus is on allowing entire patient records to be shared electronically between GPs, such as between a federation of GP practices or for out-of-hours and emergency care.

Slater said the CCGs are basing their plans on a patient’s express consent at the point of care, with no data shared between clinical systems unless a patient gives their permission.

Access to a patient’s health data can be completely or partially restricted based on their preferences, he said.

Slater said the group has spent time talking to patients and GPs about the project to understand their reservations and address their concerns, leading to the development of the memorandum of understanding.

The document “pulls together” the principles of information sharing and links to other relevant documents, with participants required to sign up to level two of the Information Governance Toolkit and other national standards.

“We have a difficulty if they’re not able to sign up to the principles, because we don’t think it’s safe to share information with them.”

Slater said the praise from Dame Fiona and the Independent Information Governance Panel  was “a feather in our cap”, after the panel cited the memorandum of understanding as an example of good practice that should be shared more widely.

“We’re one of the first healthcare centres in England to do it with this level of governance, one of the first examples where the governance has been taken this seriously.”

While the focus is on primary care, Slater said some community trusts in the area are also beginning to use SystmOne and may be able to sign up to the data-sharing agreement further in the future.

He said the group is working with the Information Governance Alliance to share their work more widely across the NHS.