Data sharing at the heart of transformation

Stephen Curtis,
Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing

Earlier this week, Chief Executive of the Civil Service and Permanent Secretary of the Cabinet Office, John Manzoni, made a speech in which he positioned data sharing as a major underpinning to transformation.  He said, “Transformation is at the heart of the changes we are trying to put in place. It means breaking down siloes and working more collaboratively, with a more focused approach to sharing data – both within government and with the outside world.” [1]

Transformation and working collaboratively is high on the agenda this week, as I also attended an event on information and data sharing run by the Local Government Association (LGA).  It was attended by councillors, leaders and chief executives from across the health and social care space.  People were at the heart of the conversation, both in terms of services needing to be more coordinated around their needs, but also in terms of their engagement and expectations about the sharing of information. 

It’s promising to see such high-profile figures such as Manzoni putting data sharing at the heart of transformation, and with information sharing events taking place which are attended by leaders and decision makers it does feel that the importance of information sharing to service transformation is being recognised. In events and conversations, I am increasingly seeing a recognition that a significant cultural issue sits behind this.  Despite this, I also see nervousness about communicating about information and data sharing.  And I see this nervousness at all levels (nationally and locally), even though I hear leaders saying that it needs to be addressed.  And yet this continues to impact on people’s lives.

We see plenty of reports about how information wasn’t shared, but you just need to look at the rich resource of case studies on our website to see where information is being shared, and how important information sharing is to service transformation. 

Many organisations are gearing up to implement the requirements of the General Data Protection Regulation.  And we have a new Data Protection Bill on the horizon.  In the context of all this change, it is all the more important that we communicate more about why information sharing is important.  We should consider how we engage with our people and communities about why we need to share information and data, and place this firmly at the heart of improved and transformed services.

We must also start to look at ourselves.  Why are we nervous about communicating and acting on information and data sharing?  Understand that nervousness and address the reasons behind it.  If there is a problem there, address the problem.  Otherwise information sharing will continue to be a barrier to better services.  Every one of us has a responsibility to stop and consider whether our actions are perpetuating a negative impact on people’s lives, and whether there is more we could do to break down the information and data sharing barriers.

John Manzoni makes the link between transformation and data sharing.  We must continue to build and strengthen this link, and break down the siloes that prevent us being able to provide the support to the people and communities that need it.


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