Information sharing protocols and information sharing agreements

How do you agree an information sharing protocol?

It is necessary for all partners to work together in order to function effectively and deliver the partnership’s stated purpose. Effective information sharing is a key component to the successful functioning of a partnership, but is often made difficult by different organisational approaches. In order to start the information sharing process, it is important that all partners are able to commit to the sharing of their information.

An information sharing protocol aims to provide a high level, multi-agency framework for the sharing of information for a defined purpose. By clearly defining why information sharing is required, the principles that will govern the sharing and how it will support the functions of the partnership, a protocol can provide the foundations for partners to agree, in principle, to share information. 

The function of an information sharing protocol should only include the level of information necessary to achieve agreement in principle. It should not aim to detail every data sharing requirement between named agencies as it will later be underpinned by agreements which set out these further specifics. The tools in this section will help you address the following questions:

  • Do we need an information sharing protocol?
  • How do I develop an information sharing protocol with my partners?
  • How do we implement and maintain an information sharing protocol?

Useful tools:

How do you implement an information sharing agreement?

A high level agreement to share information should been reached and defined using an information sharing protocol, or a similar partnership agreement. The data to be shared should then be defined and agreed within an information sharing agreement. This will set out the necessary details to share relevant information appropriately.To ensure that the information can and will be shared, it is important to make sure that a number of questions are asked at this stage.

  • Are all existing information sharing protocols and agreements available for review?
  • Should the agreement relate to any associated information sharing protocols, partnership agreements and other strategic documents?
  • Do partners understand why an agreement is needed and what its purpose will be?
  • Are the context and scope of the agreement clearly defined and understood?
  • Are the responsibilities of individual members of staff clearly defined and understood?
  • Are the purposes for which information is required clearly defined and are the information requirements fully explored and understood?
  • Has due consideration been given to the legality of sharing the information and its use once shared?
  • Will the information be safe during transfer and after sharing?
  • Have the appropriate communication channels been identified  to ensure that the agreement and the consequences of sharing are known by the relevant people?
  • Is there a process in place to feedback any problems in relation to access, the information, data quality etc?
It is a good idea to complete an information sharing agreement with partners to ensure that the information entered is correct. This can be used to transfer the information between partners.

Although our role is to look at the cultural issues to information sharing, we recognise the importance of the 'non-cultural' aspects such as governance, legalities, risks, and protocols - and although we by no means call ourselves the experts in this area of information sharing, you can read about some of the issues the local places we've worked with have come across in the past.