Whole Essex Information Sharing Framework – onward and upwards

Lauri Almond,
Operational Information Governance Lead
Essex County Council

We recently had the pleasure of welcoming Clare, Imogen and Stuart from the Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing (the Centre) to our first ‘Whole Essex Information Sharing Framework’ (WEISF) annual conference in Chelmsford on 21st September.  It was a pleasure to listen to their insight and advice in the arena of information sharing.  It was also great to have Andrew Rose from the ICO present at the event, providing insight and answering questions from the ‘scary’ regulator perspective (and he was absolutely not scary – such a lovely man).

Back in 2014, cross-sector partners from across Essex were invited to the WEISF launch, which was also attended and supported by the Centre. Partners were invited to sign up to the framework principles, and an online portal was developed to support this partnership framework.  The framework was sponsored by the Essex Health & Wellbeing Board, and by the Essex Chief Executives Association.  The original portal was later replaced with a more up to date version – certainly easier to manage and access (thankfully for those of us who remain technically challenged!)

A multi-agency management group (WMG) was set up to represent the different sectors signed up to the WEISF, and Essex County Council agreed to administer the framework.  For the first year WMG was chaired by one of the local authority representatives but in the second year a decision was approved by the group to move to a rotating Chair; this ensured that all agencies had the opportunity to Chair and influence the agenda for each meeting, and allowed us to get to know those Chairs a little better when working with them to set the agendas etc., (although strictly no running round a la musical chairs – health and safety hazard of course!).

In 2015 Essex County Council commissioned a Greater Essex Information strategy (GEIS – no, not the feathered variety!), seeking input and feedback from all stakeholder groups across Essex.  The strategy outlines our aspirations and commitment to sharing data across Essex to deliver better outcomes for our citizens.  WEISF is a key enabler of the strategy as it provides advice and guidance, both regulatory and local best practice, as well as templates to aid consistency and ensure protocols cover all elements required to support effective and lawful information sharing across and beyond Essex (as all are welcome to sign up – the more the merrier!).

The GEIS work also helped us to focus on the necessary building blocks (Lego not permitted) to ensure that partners information handling practices were sufficiently mature that they could realise the benefits of the strategy.  Again, the WEISF portal was a vehicle (limo obviously) used to provide advice and guidance on enablers such as information asset registers, data flow mapping, privacy notices and protocols – often new or scary concepts to smaller organisations (actually to most of us).  It is vital that we develop our information maturity to provide assurance not only to our partners, but also to our citizens – although obviously the citizens do trust public bodies, right?

The WEISF has supported many projects to drive through the perceived barriers to sharing information, such as the Pan Essex Fraud Initiative, Health and Social Care integration projects, Safeguarding System and the Data Platform and Risk Stratification project (to name but a few).

In 2015, the Centre visited Essex County Council to discuss the Data Platform and Risk Stratification project.  This was an innovative multi-agency project and we sought advice and insight from the Centre.  They were very helpful in describing some similar projects that they were aware of, and whilst those projects had not evidenced successful outcomes at that time (or at least that is the politically correct statement), sharing lessons learned was very helpful for us, and we promised to advise the Centre as and when we moved the project into a live stage – which we hope will be soon (preferably before I am older and greyer!).

Personally I see the benefits of the WEISF as;

  • the ability to reach out to and engage with our cross-sector partners
  • share common problems and concerns and help each other to find solutions
  • visibility of information sharing in Essex as all protocols are published on the portal which is accessible to the public
  • support from senior leaders to move the agenda forwards
  • manage our protocols proactively and reduce duplication – who has the time for that!

Thanks for reading my ramblings, especially in such a fast-paced world.  I hope it gave some insight into what the Essex partnership is doing to shape the information sharing agenda – onwards and upwards!

To read more about the WEISF please click here, you’ll also be able to see the presentations from the annual conference (including information on the Pan Essex Fraud Initiative) by clicking on the ‘conference’ tab.

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