Information sharing doesn’t stop for the summer holidays

Though summer is often a time for holidays and relaxation, things are still busy in the world of information sharing across a range of different policy areas. The IISaM project, Transformation Network and future Centre of Excellence is increasingly seen as having a valuable contribution to make, and so I’m pleased to share some of the work we’re doing at the moment.

Earlier this summer, the Secretary of State announced the first nine areas to be championed by the Public Service Transformation Network, who join the four existing Whole Place Community Budget pilot areas receiving support from the network as they redesign their local public services to meet the needs of local people in a coordinated way.  Discussions with those areas are underway, and have revealed the importance of information sharing to the ambitious programme of work they are starting.  We will be helping those areas to tackle information sharing issues and share what is learnt, both amongst the areas and with a wider audience.

Spending Round 2013 brought an announcement that, in addition to a centre of excellence in information sharing, Government will also explore how to reduce the complexity of sharing data between services, up to and including the potential for legislation. Work is underway to gather examples of occasions on which legislation is a barrier to information sharing. As IISaM has often seen, barriers often relate to the way in which legislation is interpreted, rather than the legislation itself, but there are restrictions which arise from legislation. We are collating evidence of those occasions, and examining what the impact of that barrier is – what didn’t happen as a result? We are working closely with government colleagues to provide them with these kinds of current, real-life issues, which should help shape their approach to policy, and any potential legislative changes. Get in touch if you have specific examples of where legislation (of lack of) has been a barrier to business change. It’s the story around the business change that matters!

Another organisation concerned with the impact of information sharing legislation is the Law Commission. Earlier in 2013, they announced that they are scoping out the issues around information sharing between public bodies; it’s worth looking at their announcement in full:

“There are persistent reports that public bodies have difficulty in sharing data, which prevents them from fulfilling their duties to citizens.

There seem to us to be three reasons why this may be the case. First, there may be barriers in the substantive law which unduly restrict data sharing between public bodies. Secondly, even if the law allows for sharing, it could be that the law is so unclear that it is easy to misunderstand and misapply, creating perceived barriers to data sharing. Therefore, there is something wrong with the form of the law – the way it is expressed. Thirdly, it may be that there is simply a gap in education, guidance and advice on the law.”

What’s really interesting is the suggestion that it could be the perception of data sharing legislation, or the guidance, education and advice around existing legislation, that creates a barrier. We will be talking to the Law Commission in the coming weeks, to share what we have learned so far, and to see what evidence they are gathering on the topic.

Also in the pipeline is the Government response to the second NHS Information Governance review, chaired by Dame Fiona Caldicott. The Caldicott review was published back in April, and throughout the report, the review panel commented on the need for cultural change in the way that information is managed in the health and social care system. Given the move towards better integration of health and social care services, and towards multi-agency working more generally, the need to understand and address the differing cultures around the way information is managed and shared is increasingly important. We’re working to help suggest some practical solutions to the issues identified by the review panel, and to establish the ways in which the information sharing centre of excellence could help to deliver some of the report’s recommendations. It is at the local level that those cultural differences often come to light, so hopefully the work of the IISaM project to date, and the future centre of excellence, can contribute to making those recommendations a reality.