Gary FloodCorrespondentWednesday 2 November 2016

NHS England sets up info governance network

Initiative will use collaboration platform in effort to break down ‘Byzantine’ nature of IG

NHS leaders trying to redesign the way that care is delivered and how the social care system can be better integrated with health are being offered a new online support network.

Running on the futureNHS collaboration platform, it has been set up to act as a protected discussion and education area for practitioners working on local process redesign initiatives.

Geraint LewisSpeaking about the move on the main NHS England website, Geraint Lewis (pictured), the organisation’s chief data officer, details what he sees as the pressure trusts and clinical commissioning groups are coming under to redesign multiple business processes at once. It is being felt most keenly around information governance (IG) – basically, patient data privacy.

Lewis and his team think the platform, which draws on lessons learned from colleagues in local government who used a predecessor system, can provide valuable support.

“We want to ensure that the vanguards and pioneers feel empowered to take a sensible and proportionate approach to privacy and confidentiality,” he says in the blogpost.

“There is a widespread view that IG in England has become too Byzantine in its complexity and that, in practice, it is too risk averse and too inflexible to meet the modern needs of patients and clinicians.”

Challenging myths

Lewis says the new network will show the existing approach is outdated: “Our collective aim is to be open, straightforward and helpful… We’ll do this firstly by challenging some of the myths associated with IG but also by holding national bodies to account where their guidance is outdated or unwieldy, or where we hear that they are not being responsive enough to the new requirements of the service.”

The drive for the platform has been sparked by NHS activity around new care model ‘vanguard sites’, which have expanded in number from the original 29 to 50. Participating NHS organisations in this programme are taking a lead on the development of new care models “which will act as the blueprints for the NHS moving forward” and are meant to be “inspirations” to the rest of the health and care system.

The new care model work is being paralleled by a similar ambitious programme of change around a cohort of Integrated Care Pioneers, a further 25 sites developing and testing new and different ways of joining up health and social care services across England. Both programmes are in turn supposed to be testing out some of the ideas for a remodeled NHS contained in the 2014 Five Year Forward View, says NHS England.

IGA backing

The collaboration platform and the clinical IG network NHS England sees it quickly building up has the backing of the health service’s own internal Information Governance Alliance, the authoritative source of advice and guidance about the rules on using information in health and care.

Lewis concludes his post by promising resources to help guide practitioners around potential IG issues in process redesign.

“Rather than issuing yet more reams of guidance, we will focus instead on co-developing frameworks, checklists, flowcharts and templates,” he says. “Our guiding principle will be to simplify processes and to provide a consistent approach to IG.”

Image from NHS England, Open Government Licence v3.0