NHS Digital dodges further ICO data opt out regulation

data, NHS Digital
“A formal assessment by ICO good practice auditors in December identified a small amount of work to do, but the team was satisfied that the requirements of the undertaking were being met,” said an ICO spokesperson

In April 2016, NHS Digital signed an undertaking to comply with the Data Protection Act 1998

[London, UK] The ICO has said further regulatory action in regards to data sharing opt outs will not be ‘necessary’.

This comes after a follow-up assessment carried out by the data regulator last December to see if requirements of the undertaking signed by NHS Digital in April were now implemented.

An ‘ongoing concern’ was brought to the attention of the ICO last year that information was being shared for reasons ‘other than direct care’, although patients were given the choice to opt out through the ‘Type 2 objection’.

At the time, the ICO revealed that NHS Digital, formerly Health and Social Care Information Centre, did not ‘collect, record or implement’ these objections ‘for legal and technological’ reasons, prompting the initial review.

“NHS Digital has taken appropriate steps and put plans in place to address the requirements of the undertaking and to mitigate the risks highlighted,” the newly released document shows.

Further recommendations

However, ICO also acknowledges that ‘further work’ needs to be done by 18 April 2017 so that it is clear that data opt-out requests received before 29 April 2016 were ‘not honoured’, while also assessing the ‘effectiveness’ of the programme developed to raise awareness regarding this issue. NHS Digital has agreed to implement these recommendations.

A spokesperson for the ICO said: “We acknowledge the progress NHS Digital has made to ensure patients’ wishes to opt out of data sharing are implemented as set out in the undertaking it signed in April 2016.

“A formal assessment by ICO good practice auditors in December identified a small amount of work to do, but the team was satisfied that the requirements of the undertaking were being met. NHS Digital has agreed to the ICO’s final recommendations and, as a result, the ICO is satisfied that regulatory action will not be necessary at this stage.”

Caldicott review

Last July, it was also announced by George Freeman, former Minister of Life Sciences, that the care.data programme would be scrapped following the release of Dame Fiona Caldicott’s third review.

An NHS England spokesperson said they ‘welcome Dame Fiona’s review’ and a consultation was launched over her proposals with the outcome expected to be released by the end of the year; however, an official response has not been published until now.