Skip to the content

‘No surprises’ proposed as new Caldicott Principle


National Data Guardian Dame Fiona Caldicott has proposed adding an eighth requirement of ‘no surprises’ to patients to the list of principles on how data should be handled in health and social care.

The move has come in the publication of a consultation on the Caldicott Principles and the role of ‘Caldicott guardians’ in the sector. It follows a two-year internal review and is set to run until 3 September.

The announcement of the consultation emphasised the proposal that there should be a new principle of no surprises for patients and service users with regard to how their confidential health and care data is used.

“This proposal is the next step in work that the NDG and her advisory panel have been progressing for several years,” the consultation document says. “Their work has involved a close and careful consideration of the role that the legal concept of ‘reasonable expectations’ should play in shaping the circumstances under which health and care data may be legitimately shared.”

It says this would be consistent with the direction the courts have taken, align with the General Data Protection Regulation and with professional guidance from the General Medical Council. It would also reflect a move away from the ‘doctor knows best’ attitude towards the use of data.

There are also proposals to change some of the wording of the existing seven principles.

Caldicott (pictured) said: “I have long emphasised the importance of dialogue with the public about how confidential information is used by the health and care system. This is essential to ensure that people can trust that what they tell their doctor, social worker, nurse or other care professional is treated with appropriate respect and used beneficially. All those working in health and care have a part to play in that dialogue.

“I hope that our proposals will support this and look forward to hearing how they are received.”

The announcement emphasised that the proposals are not a response to the current pandemic or the data sharing arrangements it has prompted, and said there should be careful consideration of when these will end. It acknowledged that some changes, such as those to improve and speed up data sharing, are beneficial and should be maintained.

Aiming for improvements

“We hope that by conducting this consultation now, we can develop an improved set of Caldicott Principles and guidance in time to inform and support these important discussions, which will be important to maintaining public trust for health and care data to be used,” it said.

The Caldicott Principles were developed in 1997 and have since become widely used across health and social care to help ensure that confidential information is protected and used when appropriate.

There are currently more than 18,000 Caldicott guardians working in health, social care and other sectors, helping their organisations ensure that information in accordance with the principles.

Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0

Register For Alerts

Keep informed - Get the latest news about the use of technology, digital & data for the public good in your inbox from UKAuthority.