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Study sets out data sharing framework



Carnegie Trust, Involve and Understanding Patient Data lay out five features to determine when it is right to share personal data in public services

A trio of research charities have published a five-point framework for the sharing of personal data in the public sector, as part of a report that says service providers need more help deciding when it is appropriate.

Carnegie Trust UK, public participation charity Involve and Understanding Patient Data, which focuses on the use of health information, have outlined the framework in Data for the Public Benefit, which is based on a series of workshops with 120 officials from the housing, criminal justice, health and social care sectors in England.

It says that while data can currently be legally shared between different public services in a wide variety of circumstances, there is no consistent approach to the issue across the country.

The lack of consistency presents a risk that in some circumstances data may be shared in a way that, while legal, may not have widespread public support.  In other cases overly-cautious public service providers may be reluctant to share data which could be used to improve services.

The study says that, while there are privacy impact assessment tools and planning frameworks to help organisations, there has been little focus on helping them to evaluate benefits, risks and which purposes are valued the most.

It responds to this by outlining five key features that it says the organisations involved in a data sharing initiative should be able to demonstrate. It should:

  • Enable high quality service delivery that produces better outcomes for people.
  • Deliver positive outcomes for the wider public.
  • Use data in ways that respect the individual, not just in the method of sharing but the principle.
  • Support the effective use of public resources.
  • Provide tangible benefits, recognised by service providers and the public.

Each of these comes with a set of evaluation questions to assess whether an initiative fits the bill.

Clarity and confidence

Simon Burall, senior associate at Involve, said: “Data can, of course, also be used for public good by public service providers keen to provide better, faster, more responsive services to their communities.

“However, public services currently lack clarity and confidence about how the public understand and balance the benefits and risks of data sharing. This new framework will support local government to develop a more productive dialogue with the public about when data sharing is acceptable and when not.”

The report also calls on public service providers to engage the public in dialogue and debate about when data should – and should not – be shared to improve public services.

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