Is Data Protection a barrier to public service improvement?

At the recent Wellbeing seminar in Llanrwst and Cardiff, Data Sharing and Data Protection cropped up as a key issue for Welsh public services. Dyfrig Williams looks at why it was seen as such a barrier.

In the plenary session of the wellbeing, Anne Marie Cunningham, who is both a GP and also a Lecturer at Cardiff University, described the problems currently facing GPs who are looking to share data. You can watch the discussion at the start of the below video.

This isn’t the first time it’s been identified as a key issue. Data Protection was again a big topic of conversation at our Information Technology seminar, which subsequently led to a webinar on cloud computing where Evan Jones of the Welsh Government addressed people’s fears in order to debunk myths.

At the wellbeing seminar, the issue was slightly different as it was about public services sharing data rather than ownership by stealth by American companies. But the reticence to share data was none the less identified as a barrier to improving services.

Despite the barriers in place, there are organisations who have negotiated the issue and improved their services. It was fascinating hearing from Mark Shone of Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service at the Strengthening the Connections events. At 3:32 in the below video, Mark explains how the Fire and Rescue Service have put in place a Data Sharing agreement with the NHS in their area. His presentation shows how they have been able to identify people who are most at risk of home fires and undertake preventative work.

The Information Commissioner has shared good practice in their Data Sharing Code of Practice, which includes a section on Data Sharing Agreements. The forward of the document is striking because although it quite rightly focuses on citizens’ rights, it also clearly recognises that ‘People want their personal data to work for them. They expect organisations to share their personal data where it’s necessary to provide them with the services they want. They expect society to use its information resources to stop crime and fraud and to keep citizens safe and secure’.

Data Protection is certainly an issue that we will be looking to address as part of our events for 2015-16. If public services can effectively manage the process, it can help to give a platform for better collaborative working. Hopefully by looking at this in depth we can help to share the right information and practice so that we can get to grips with the issues that public services face.


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