Tag Archives: Health and Social Care Information Centre

A vanquished ghost returns as details of distress required in NHS opt out

It seems the ugly ghosts of care.data past were alive and well at NHS Digital this Christmas.

Old style thinking, the top-down patriarchal ‘no one who uses a public service should be allowed to opt out of sharing their records. Nor can people rely on their record being anonymised,‘ that you thought was vanquished, has returned with a vengeance.

The Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, has reportedly  done a U-turn on opt out of the transfer of our medical records to third parties without consent.

That backtracks on what he said in Parliament on January 25th, 2014 on opt out of anonymous data transfers, despite the right to object in the NHS constitution [1].

So what’s the solution? If the new opt out methods aren’t working, then back to the old ones and making Section 10 requests? But it seems the Information Centre isn’t keen on making that work either.

All the data the HSCIC holds is sensitive and as such, its release risks patients’ significant harm or distress [2] so it shouldn’t be difficult to tell them to cease and desist, when it comes to data about you.

But how is NHS Digital responding to people who make the effort to write directly?

Someone who “got a very unhelpful reply” is being made to jump through hoops.

If anyone asks that their hospital data should not be used in any format and passed to third parties, that’s surely for them to decide.

Let’s take the case study of a woman who spoke to me during the whole care.data debacle who had been let down by the records system after rape. Her NHS records subsequently about her mental health care were inaccurate, and had led to her being denied the benefit of private health insurance at a new job.

Would she have to detail why selling her medical records would cause her distress? What level of detail is fair and who decides? The whole point is, you want to keep info confidential.

Should you have to state what you fear? “I have future distress, what you might do to me?” Once you lose control of data, it’s gone. Based on past planning secrecy and ideas for the future, like mashing up health data with retail loyalty cards as suggested at Strata in November 2013 [from 16:00] [2] no wonder people are sceptical. 

Given the long list of commercial companies,  charities, think tanks and others that passing out our sensitive data puts at risk and given the Information Centre’s past record, HSCIC might be grateful they have only opt out requests to deal with, and not millions of medical ethics court summonses. So far.

HSCIC / NHS Digital has extracted our identifiable records and has given them away, including for commercial product use, and continues give them away, without informing us. We’ve accepted Ministers’ statements and that a solution would be found. Two years on, patience wears thin.

“Without that external trust, we risk losing our public mandate and then cannot offer the vital insights that quality healthcare requires.”

— Sir Nick Partridge on publication of the audit report of 10% of 3,059 releases by the HSCIC between 2005-13

— Andy WIlliams said, “We want people to be certain their choices will be followed.”

Jeremy Hunt said everyone should be able to opt out of having their anonymised data used. David Cameron did too when the plan was  announced in 2012.

In 2014 the public was told there should be no more surprises. This latest response is not only a surprise but enormously disrespectful.

When you’re trying to rebuild trust, assuming that we accept that ‘is’ the aim, you can’t say one thing, and do another.  Perhaps the Department for Health doesn’t like the public answer to what the public wants from opt out, but that doesn’t make the DH view right.

Perhaps NHS Digital doesn’t want to deal with lots of individual opt out requests, that doesn’t make their refusal right.

Kingsley Manning recognised in July 2014, that the Information Centre “had made big mistakes over the last 10 years.” And there was “a once-in-a-generation chance to get it right.”

I didn’t think I’d have to move into the next one before they fix it.

The recent round of 2016 public feedback was the same as care.data 1.0. Respect nuanced opt outs and you will have all the identifiable public interest research data you want. Solutions must be better for other uses, opt out requests must be respected without distressing patients further in the process, and anonymous must mean  anonymous.

Pseudonymised data requests that go through the DARS process so that a Data Sharing Framework Contract and Data Sharing Agreement are in place are considered to be compliant with the ICO code of practice – fine, but they are not anonymous. If DARS is still giving my family’s data to Experian, Harvey Walsh, and co, despite opt out, I’ll be furious.

The [Caldicott 2] Review Panel found “that commissioners do not need dispensation from confidentiality, human rights & data protection law.

Neither do our politicians, their policies or ALBs.


[1] https://www.england.nhs.uk/ourwork/tsd/ig/ig-fair-process/further-info-gps/

“A patient can object to their confidential personal information from being disclosed out of the GP Practice and/or from being shared onwards by the HSCIC for non-direct care purposes (secondary purposes).”

[2] Minimum Mandatory Measures http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documents/information-management/cross-govt-actions.pdf p7

Breaking up is hard to do. Restructuring education in England.

This Valentine’s I was thinking about the restructuring of education in England and its wide ranging effects. It’s all about the break up.

The US EdTech market is very keen to break into the UK, and our front door is open.

We have adopted the model of Teach First partnered with Teach America, while some worry we do not ask “What is education for?

Now we hear the next chair of Oftsed is to be sought from the US, someone who is renowned as “the scourge of the unions.”

Should we wonder how long until the management of schools themselves is US-sourced?

The education system in England has been broken up in recent years into manageable parcels  – for private organisations, schools within schools, charity arms of commercial companies, and multi-school chains to take over – in effect, recent governments have made reforms that have dismantled state education as I knew it.

Just as the future vision of education outlined in the 2005 Direct Democracy co-authored by Michael Gove said, “The first thing to do is to make existing state schools genuinely independent of the state.”

Free schools touted as giving parents the ultimate in choice, are in effect another way to nod approval to the outsourcing of the state, into private hands, and into big chains. Despite seeing the model fail spectacularly abroad, the government seems set on the same here.

Academies, the route that finagles private corporations into running public-education is the preferred model, says Mr Cameron. While there are no plans to force schools to become academies, the legislation currently in ping-pong under the theme of coasting schools enables just that. The Secretary of State can impose academisation. Albeit only on Ofsted labeled ‘failing’ schools.

What fails appears sometimes to be a school that staff and parents cannot understand as anything less than good, but small. While small can be what parents want, small pupil-teacher ratios, mean higher pupil-per teacher costs. But the direction of growth is towards ‘big’ is better’.

“There are now 87 primary schools with more than 800 pupils, up from 77 in 2014 and 58 in 2013. The number of infants in classes above the limit of 30 pupils has increased again – with 100,800 pupils in these over-sized classes, an increase of 8% compared with 2014.” [BBC]

All this restructuring creates costs about which the Department wants to be less than transparent.  And has lost track of.

If only we could see that these new structures raised standards?  But,” while some chains have clearly raised attainment, others achieve worse outcomes creating huge disparities within the academy sector.”

If not delivering better results for children, then what is the goal?

A Valentine’s view of Public Service Delivery: the Big Break up

Breaking up the State system, once perhaps unthinkable is possible through the creation of ‘acceptable’ public-private partnerships (as opposed to outright privatisation per se). Schools become academies through a range of providers and different pathways, at least to start with, and as they fail, the most successful become the market leaders in an oligopoly. Ultimately perhaps, this could become a near monopoly. Delivering ‘better’. Perhaps a new model, a new beginning, a new provider offering salvation from the flood of ‘failing’ schools coming to the State’s rescue.

In order to achieve this entry to the market by outsiders, you must first remove conditions seen as restrictive, giving more ‘freedom’ to providers; to cut corners make efficiency savings on things like food standards, required curriculum, and numbers of staff, or their pay.

And what if, as a result, staff leave, or are hard to recruit?

Convincing people that “tech” and “digital” will deliver cash savings and teach required skills through educational machine learning is key if staff costs are to be reduced, which in times of austerity and if all else has been cut, is the only budget left to slash.

Self-taught systems’ providers are convincing in their arguments that tech is the solution.

Sadly I remember when a similar thing was tried on paper. My first year of GCSE maths aged 13-14  was ‘taught’ at our secondary comp by working through booklets in a series that we self-selected from the workbench in the classroom. Then we picked up the master marking-copy once done. Many of the boys didn’t need long to work out the first step was an unnecessary waste of time. The teacher had no role in the classroom. We were bored to bits. By the final week at end of the year they sellotaped the teacher to his chair.

I kid you not.

Teachers are so much more than knowledge transfer tools, and yet by some today seem to be considered replaceable by technology.

The US is ahead of us in this model, which has grown hand-in-hand with commercialism in schools. Many parents are unhappy.

So is the DfE setting us up for future heartbreak if it wants us to go down the US route of more MOOCs, more tech, and less funding and fewer staff? Where’s the cost benefit risk analysis and transparency?

We risk losing the best of what is human from the classroom, if we will remove the values they model and inspire. Unions and teachers and educationalists are I am sure, more than aware of all these cumulative changes. However the wider public seems little engaged.

For anyone ‘in education’ these changes will all be self-evident and their balance of risks and benefits a matter of experience, and political persuasion. As a parent I’ve only come to understand these changes, through researching how our pupils’ personal and school data have been commercialised,  given away from the National Pupil Database without our consent, since legislation changed in 2013; and the Higher Education student and staff data sold.

Will more legislative change be needed to keep our private data accessible in public services operating in an increasingly privately-run delivery model? And who will oversee that?

The Education Market is sometimes referred to as ‘The Wild West’. Is it getting a sheriff?

The news that the next chair of Oftsed is to be sought from the US did set alarm bells ringing for some in the press, who fear US standards and US-led organisations in British schools.

“The scourge of unions” means not supportive of staff-based power and in health our junior doctors have clocked exactly what breaking their ‘union’ bargaining power is all about.  So who is driving all this change in education today?

Some ed providers might be seen as profiting individuals from the State break up. Some were accused of ‘questionable practices‘. Oversight has been lacking others said. Margaret Hodge in 2014 was reported to have said: “It is just wrong to hand money to a company in which you have a financial interest if you are a trustee.”

I wonder if she has an opinion on a lead non-executive board member at the Department for Education also being the director of one of the biggest school chains? Or the ex Minister now employed by the same chain? Or that his campaign was funded by the same Director?  Why this register of interests is not transparent is a wonder.

It could appear to an outsider that the private-public revolving door is well oiled with sweetheart deals.

Are the reforms begun by Mr Gove simply to be executed until their end goal, whatever that may be, through Nikky Morgan or she driving her own new policies?

If Ofsted were  to become US-experience led, will the Wild West be tamed or US providers invited to join the action, reshaping a new frontier? What is the end game?

Breaking up is not hard to do, but in whose best interest is it?

We need only look to health to see the similar pattern.

The structures are freed up, and boundaries opened up (if you make the other criteria) in the name of ‘choice’. The organisational barriers to break up are removed in the name of ‘direct accountability’. And enabling plans through more ‘business intelligence’ gathered from data sharing, well, those plans abound.

Done well, new efficient systems and structures might bring public benefits, the right technology can certainly bring great things, but have we first understood what made the old less efficient if indeed it was and where are those baselines to look back on?

Where is the transparency of the end goal and what’s the price the Department is prepared to pay in order to reach it?

Is reform in education, transparent in its ideology and how its success is being measured if not by improved attainment?

The results of change can also be damaging. In health we see failing systems and staff shortages and their knock-on effects into patient care. In schools, these failures damage children’s start in life, it’s not just a ‘system’.

Can we assess if and how these reforms are changing the right things for the right reasons? Where is the transparency of what problems we are trying to solve, to assess what solutions work?

How is change impact for good and bad being measured, with what values embedded, with what oversight, and with whose best interests at its heart?

2005’s Direct Democracy could be read as a blueprint for co-author Mr Gove’s education reforms less than a decade later.

Debate over the restructuring of education and its marketisation seems to have bypassed most of us in the public, in a way health has not.

Underperformance as measured by new and often hard to discern criteria, means takeover at unprecedented pace.

And what does this mean for our most vulnerable children? SEN children are not required to be offered places by academies. The 2005 plans co-authored by Mr Gove also included: “killing the government’s inclusion policy stone dead,” without an alternative.

Is this the direction of travel our teachers and society supports?

What happens when breakups happen and relationship goals fail?

Who picks up the pieces? I fear the state is paying heavily for the break up deals, investing heavily in new relationships, and yet will pay again for failure. And so will our teaching staff, and children.

While Mr Hunt is taking all the heat right now, for his part in writing Direct Democracy and its proposals to privatise health – set against the current health reforms and restructuring of junior doctors contracts – we should perhaps also look to Mr Gove co-author, and ask to better understand the current impact of his recent education reforms, compare them with what he proposed in 2005, and prepare for the expected outcomes of change before it happens (see p74).

One outcome was that failure was to be encouraged in this new system, and Sweden held up as an exemplary model:

“Liberating state schools would also allow the all-important freedom to fail.”

As Anita Kettunen, principal of JB Akersberga in Sweden reportedly said when the free schools chain funded by a private equity firm failed:

“if you’re going to have a system where you have a market, you have to be ready for this.”

Breaking up can be hard to do. Failure hurts. Are we ready for this?
******

 

Abbreviated on Feb 18th.

 

Thoughts since #UKHC15. UK health datasharing.

The world you will release your technology into, is the world you are familiar with, which is already of the past. Based on old data.

How can you design tools and systems fit for the future? And for all?

For my 100th post and the first of 2016, here is a summary of some of my thoughts prompted by . Several grains of thought related to UK heath data that have been growing for some time.

1000 words on “Hard things: identity, data sharing and consent.” The fun run version.

Do we confuse hard with complex? Hard does not have to mean difficult. Some things seem to be harder than necessary, because of politics. I’ve found this hard to write. Where to start?

The search to capture solutions has been elusive.

The starting line: Identity

Then my first thoughts on identity got taken care of by Vinay Gupta in this post, better than I could. (If you want a long read about identity, you might want to get a hot drink like I did and read and re-read. It says it’ll take an hour. It took me several, in absorption and thinking time. And worth it.)

That leaves data sharing and consent. Both of which I have written many of my other 99 posts about in the last year. So what’s new?

Why are we doing this: why aren’t we there yet?

It still feels very much that many parts of the health service and broader government thinking on ‘digital’ is we need to do something. Why is missing, and therefore achieving and measuring success is hard.

Often we start with a good idea and set about finding a solution how to achieve it. But if the ‘why’ behind the idea is shaky to start with, the solution may falter, as soon as it gets difficult. No one seems to know what #paperless actually means in practice.

So why try and change things? Fixing problems, rather than coming up with good ideas is another way to think of it as they suggested at  #ukhc15, it was a meet-up for people who want to make things better, usually for others, and sometimes that involves improving the systems they worked with directly, or supported others in.

I no longer work in systems’ introductions, or enhancement processes, although I have a lay role in research and admin data, but regular readers know, most of the last two years has been all about the data.  care.data.

More often than not, in #ukhc2015 discussions that focused on “the data” I would try and bring people back to thinking about what the change is trying to solve, what it wants to “make better” and why.

There’s a broad tendency to simply think more data = better. Not true, and I’ll show later a case study why. We must question why.

Why doesn’t everyone volunteer or not want to join in?

Very many people who have spoken with me over the last two years have shared their concrete concerns over the plans to share GP data and they do not get heard. They did not see a need to share their identifiable personal confidential data, or see why truly anonymous data would not be sufficient for health planning, for example.

Homeless men, and women at risk, people from the travelling community, those with disabilities, questions on patients with stigmatising conditions, minorities, children, sexual orientation – not to mention from lawyers or agencies representing them. Or the 11 million of our adult population not online. Few of whom we spoke about. Few of whom we heard from at #ukhc15. Yet put together, these individuals make up not only a significant number of people, but make up a disproportionately high proportion of the highest demands on our health and social care services.

The inverse care law appears magnified in its potential when applied to digital, and should magnify the importance of thinking about access. How will care.data make things better for them, and how will the risks be mitigated? And are those costs being properly assessed if there is no assessment of the current care.data business case and seemingly, since 2012 at least, no serious effort to look at alternatives?

The finish line? We can’t see what it looks like yet.

The #ukhc2015 event was well run, and I liked the spontaneity of people braver than me who were keen to lead sessions and did it well.  As someone who is white, living in a ‘nice’ area, I am privileged. It was a privilege to spend a day with #UKHC15 and packed with people who clearly think about hard things all the time. People who want to make things better.  People who were welcoming to nervous first-timers at an ‘un’conference over a shared lunch.

I hope the voices of those who can’t attend these events, and outside London, are equally accounted for in all government 2016 datasharing plans.

This may be the last chance after years of similar consultations have failed to deliver workable, consensual public data sharing policies.

We have vast streams of population-wide data stored in the UK, about which, the population is largely ignorant. But while the data may be from 25 years ago, whatever is designed today is going to need to think long term, not how do we solve what we know, but how do we design solutions that will work for what we don’t.

Transparency here will be paramount to trust if future decisions are made for us, or those we make for ourselves are ‘influenced’ by machine learning, by algorithms, machine learning and ‘mindspace’ work.

As Thurgood Marshall said,

“Our whole constitutional heritage rebels at the thought of giving government the power to control men’s minds.”

Control over who we are and who the system thinks we are becomes a whole new level of discussion, if we are being told how to make a decision, especially where the decision is toward a direction of public policy based on political choice. If pensions are not being properly funded, to not allocate taxes differently and fund them, is a choice the current government has made, while the DWP seeks to influence our decison, to make us save more in private pensions.

And how about in data discussions make an effort to start talking a little more clearly in the same terms – and stop packaging ‘sharing’ as if it is something voluntary in population-wide compulsory policy.

It’s done to us, not with us, in far too many areas of government we do not see. Perhaps this consultation might change that, but it’s the ‘nth’ number of consulations and I want to be convinvced this one is intentional of real change. It’s only open for a few weeks, and this meet up for discussion appeared to be something only organised in London.

I hope we’ll hear committment to real change in support of people and the uses of our personal data by the state in the new #UkDigiStrategy, not simply more blue skythinking and drinking the ‘datasharing’ kool-aid.  We’ve been talking in the UK for far too long about getting this right.

Let’s see the government serious about making it happen. Not for government, but in the public interest, in a respectful and ethical partnership with people, and not find changes forced upon us.

No other foundation will be fit for a future in which care.data, the phenotype data, is to be the basis for an NHS so totally personalised.

If you want a longer read, read on below for my ten things in detail.

Comment welcome.

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Hard things: The marathon version, below.
Continue reading “Thoughts since #UKHC15. UK health datasharing.” »

care.data: delayed or not delayed? The train wreck that is always on time

If you cancel a train does it still show up in the delayed trains statistics?

care.data plans are not delayed (just don’t ask Healthwatch)

Somerset CCG’s announcement [1] of the delay in their care.data plans came as no surprise, except perhaps to NHS England who effectively denied it, reportedly saying work continues. [2] Both public statements may be true but it would have been good professional practice to publicly recognise that a top down delay affects others who are working hard on the ground to contribute to the effective rollout of the project. Causing confusion and delay is hard to work with. Change and technology projects run on timelines. Deadlines mean that different teams can each do their part and the whole gets done. Or not.

Healthwatch [3] has cancelled their planned public meetings.  Given that one of the reasons stated in the care.data CCG selection process was support from local patient groups including Healthwatch, this appears poor public relations. It almost wouldn’t matter, but in addition to the practicalities, the organisation and leadership are trying to prove it is trustworthy. [4]


HW_cancels


Somerset’s statement is straightforward and says it is applies to all pathfinders: 

“Following a speech by Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Health this week (3-9-15), in which he outlined his vision for the future use of technology across NHS, NHS England has asked the four care.data pathfinder pilots areas in England (Leeds, Blackburn and Derwent, West Hampshire and Somerset) to temporarily pause their activities.” [Sept 4, Somerset statement]


somerset


From when I first read of the GPES IAG concerns [5] I have seen the care.data programme hurtle from one crisis to another. But this is now a train wreck. A very quiet train wreck. No one has cried out much.[6] And yet I think the project,  professionals, and the public should be shouting from the top of the carriages that this programme needs help if it is ever to reach its destination.

care.data plans are not late against its business plan (there is none)

Where’s the business case? Why can’t it define deadlines that it can achieve?  In February 2015, I suggested the mentality that allows these unaccountable monster programmes to grow unchecked must die out.

I can’t even buy an Oyster card if I don’t know if there is money in my pocket. How can a programme which has already spent multi millions of pounds keep driving on without a budget? There is no transparency of what financial and non-financial benefits are to be expected to justify the cost. There is no accountable public measure of success checking it stays on track.

While it may be more comfortable for the organisation to deny problems, I do not believe it serves the public interest to hide information. This is supported by the very reason for being of the MPA process and its ‘challenge to Whitehall secrecy‘ [7] who rated the care.data rollout red [8] in last years audit. This requires scrutiny to find solutions.

care.data plans do not need to use lessons learned (do they?)

I hope at least there are lessons learned here in the pathfinder on what not to do before the communications rollout to 60m people.  In the words of Richard Feynman, “For successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations.”

NHS England is using the public interest test to withhold information: “the particular public interest in preserving confidential communications between NHS England and its sponsoring department [the DH].”  I do not believe this serves the public interest if it is used to hide issues and critical external opinion. The argument made is that there is “stronger public interest in maintaining the exemption where it allows the effective development of policy and operational matters on an ongoing basis.”  The Public Accounts Committee in 2013 called for early transparency and intervention which prevents the ongoing waste of “billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money” in their report into the NPfIT. [9] It showed that a lack of transparency and oversight contributed to public harm, not benefit, in that project, under the watch of the Department of Health. The report said:

“Parliament needs to be kept informed not only of what additional costs are being incurred, but also of exactly what has been delivered so far for the billions of pounds spent on the National Programme. The benefits flowing from the National Programme to date are extremely disappointing. The Department estimates £3.7 billion of benefits to March 2012, just half of the costs incurred. This saga [NPfIT] is one of the worst and most expensive contracting fiascos in the history of the public sector.”

And the Public Accounts Committee made a recommendation in 2013:

“If the Department is to deliver a paperless NHS, it needs to draw on the lessons from the National Programme and develop a clear plan, including estimates of costs and benefits and a realistic timetable.” [PAC 2013][9]

Can we see any lessons drawn on today in care.data? Or any in Jeremy Hunt’s speech or his refusal to comment on costs for the paperless NHS plans reported by HSJ journal at NHSExpo15?

While history repeats itself and “estimates of costs and benefits and a realistic timetable” continue to be absent in the care.data programme, the only reason given by Somerset for delay is to fix the specific issue of opt out:

“The National Data Guardian for health and care, Dame Fiona Caldicott, will… provide advice on the wording for a new model of consents and opt-outs to be used by the care.data programme that is so vital for the future of the NHS. The work will be completed by January [2016]…”

Perhaps delay will buy NHS England some time to get itself on track and not only respect public choice on consent, but also deliver a data usage report to shore up trust, and tell us what benefits the programme will deliver that cannot already be delivered today (through existing means, like the CPRD for research [10]).

Perhaps.

care.data plans will only deliver benefits (if you don’t measure costs)

I’ve been told “the realisation of the benefits, which serve the public interest, is dependent on the care.data programme going ahead.” We should be able to see this programme’s costs AND benefits. It is we collectively after all who are paying for it, and for whom we are told the benefits are to be delivered. DH should release the business plan and all cost/benefit/savings  plans. This is a reasonable thing to ask. What is there to hide?

The risk has been repeatedly documented in 2014-15 board meetings that “the project continues without an approved business case”.

The public and medical profession are directly affected by the lack of money given by the Department of Health as the reason for the reductions in service in health and social care. What are we missing out on to deliver what benefit that we do not already get elsewhere today?

On the pilot work continuing, the statement from NHS England reads: “The public interest is best served by a proper debate about the nature of a person’s right to opt out of data sharing and we will now have clarity on the wording for the next steps in the programme,” 

I’d like to see that ‘proper debate’ at public events. The NIB leadership avoids answering hard questions even if asked in advance, as requested. Questions such as mine go unanswered::

“How does NHS England plan to future proof trust and deliver a process of communications for the planned future changes in scope, users or uses?”

We’re expected to jump on for the benefits, but not ask about the cost.

care.data plans have no future costs (just as long as they’re unknown)

care.data isn’t only an IT infrastructure enhancement and the world’s first population wide database of 60m primary care records. It’s a massive change platform through which the NHS England Commissioning Board will use individual level business intelligence to reshape the health service. A massive change programme  that commodifies patient confidentiality as a kick-starter for economic growth.  This is often packaged together with improvements for patients, requirements for patient safety, often meaning explanations talk about use of records in direct care conflated with secondary uses.

“Without interoperable digital data, high quality effective local services cannot be delivered; nor can we achieve a transformation in patient access to new online services and ‘apps’; nor will the NHS maximise its opportunity to be a world centre in medical science and research.” [NHS England, September 1 2015] 

So who will this transformation benefit? Who and what are all its drivers? Change is expensive. It costs time and effort and needs investment.

Blackburn and Darwen’s Healthwatch appear to have received £10K for care.data engagement as stated in their annual report. Somerset’s less clear. We can only assume that Hampshire, expecting a go live ‘later in 2015’ has also had costs. Were any of their patient facing materials already printed for distribution, their ‘allocated-under-austerity’ budgets spent?

care.data is not a single destination but a long journey with a roadmap of plans for incremental new datasets and expansion of new users.

The programme should already know and be able to communicate the process behind informing the public of future changes to ensure future use will meet public expectations in advance of any change taking place. And we should know who is going to pay for that project lifetime process, and ongoing change management. I keep asking what that process will be and how it will be managed:

June 17 2015, NIB meeting at the King’s Fund Digital Conference on Health & Social Care:

june17

September 2 2015, NIB Meeting at NHS Expo 15:

NIBQ_Sept

It goes unanswered time and time again despite all the plans and roadmaps and plans for change.

These projects are too costly to fail. They are too costly to justify only having transparency applied after the event, when forced to do so.

care.data plans are never late (just as long as there is no artificial deadline)

So back to my original question. If you cancel a train does it still show up in the delayed trains statistics? I suppose if the care.data programme claims there is no artificial deadline, it can never be late. If you stop setting measurable deadlines to deliver against, the programme can never be delayed. If there is no budget set, it can never be over it. The programme will only deliver benefits, if you never measure costs.

The programme can claim it is in the public interest for as long as we are prepared to pay with an open public purse and wait for it to be on track.  Wait until data are ready to be extracted, which the notice said:

…” is thought to remain a long way off.” 

All I can say to that, is I sure hope so. Right now, it’s not fit for purpose. There must be decisions on content and process arrived at first. But we also deserve to know what we are expecting of the long journey ahead.

On time, under budget, and in the public interest?

As long as NHS England is the body both applying and measuring the criteria, it fulfils them all.

*******

[1] Somerset CCG announces delay to care.data plans https://www.somersetlmc.co.uk/caredatapaused

[2] NHS England reply to Somerset announcement reported in Government Computing http://healthcare.governmentcomputing.com/news/ccg-caredata-pilot-work-continues-4668290

[3] Healthwatch bulletin: care.data meetings cancelled http://us7.campaign-archive1.com/?u=16b067dc44422096602892350&id=5dbdfc924c

[4] Building public trust: after the NIB public engagement in Bristol http://jenpersson.com/public-trust-datasharing-nib-caredata-change/

[5] GPES IAG http://www.hscic.gov.uk/media/12911/GPES-IAG-Minutes-12-September-2013/pdf/GPES_IAG_Minutes_12.09.13.pdf

[6] The Register – Right, opt out everybody! hated care.data programme paused again http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/09/08/hated_caredata_paused_again_opt_out/

[7] Pulse Today care.data MPA rating http://www.pulsetoday.co.uk/your-practice/practice-topics/it/caredata-looks-unachievable-says-whitehall-watchdog/20010381.article#.VfMXYlbtiyM

[8] Major Projects Authority https://engage.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/major-projects-authority/

[9] The PAC 2013 ttp://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/public-accounts-committee/news/npfit-report/

[10] Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD)

***

image source: http://glaconservatives.co.uk/news/london-commuters-owed-56million-in-unclaimed-refunds-by-rail-operators/

 

Building Public Trust [4]: “Communicate the Benefits” won’t work for care.data

care.data communicating the benefits as its response to the failed communications in spring 2014, has failed to deliver public trust, here’s why:

To focus on the benefits is a shortcut for avoiding the real issues

Talking about benefits is about telling people what the organisation wants to tell them. This fails to address what the public and professionals want to know. The result is not communication, but a PR exercise.

Talking about benefits in response to the failed communications in spring 2014 and failing to address criticism since, ignores concerns that public and professionals raised at macro and micro level.  It appears disingenuous about real engagement despite saying ‘we’re listening’ and seems uncaring.

Talking about only the benefits does not provide any solution to demonstrably outweigh the potential risk of individual and public health harm through loss of trust in the confidential GP relationship, or data inaccuracy, or loss, and by ignoring these, seems unrealistic.

Talking about short term benefits and not long term solutions [to the broken opt out, long term security, long term scope change of uses and users and how those will be communicated] does not demonstrate competency or reliability.

Talking about only the benefits of commissioning, and research for the merged dataset CES, doesn’t mention all the secondary uses to which all HSCIC patient level health data are put, [those reflected in Type 2 opt out] including commercial re-use and National Back Office: “2073 releases made from the National Back Office between April 2013 and December 2013. This includes 313 releases to police forces, 1531 to the Home Office and 229 to the National Crime Agency.” [HSCIC, July2,  2014].

This use of hospital records and other secondary data by the back office, without openly telling the public, does not feel  ethical and transparent.

Another example, is the past patient communications that expressly said, ‘we do not collect name’, the intent of which would appear to be to assure patients of anonymity, without saying name is already stored at HSCIC on the Personal Demographics Service, or that name is not needed to be identifiable.

We hear a lot about transparency. But is transparent the same fully accurate, complete and honest? Honest about the intended outcomes of the programme. Honest about all the uses to which health data are put. Honest about potential future scope changes and those already planned.

Being completely truthful in communications is fundamental to future-proofing trust in the programme.

NHS England’s care.data programme through the focus on ‘the benefits’ lacks balance and appears disingenuous, disinterested,  unrealistic and lacking in reliability, competency and honesty. Through these actions it does not demonstrate the organisation is trustworthy.  This could be changed.

care.data fundamentally got it wrong with the intention to not communicate the programme at all.  It got it wrong in the tool and tone of communications in the patient leaflet.  There is a chance to get it right now, if the organisation  would only stop the focus on communicating the benefits.

I’m going to step through with a couple of examples why to-date, some communications on care.data and use of NHS data are not conducive to trust.

Communication designed to ‘future-proof’ an ongoing relationship and trust must be by design, not afterthought.

Communications need to start addressing the changes that are happening and how they make people feel and address the changes that create concern – in the public and professionals – not address the  goals that the organisation has.

Sound familiar? Communications to date have been flawed in the same way that the concept of ‘building trust’ has been flawed. It has aimed to achieve the wrong thing and with the wrong audience.

Communications in care.data needs to stop focussing on what the organisation wants from the public and professionals – the benefits it sees of getting data – and address instead firstly at a macro level, why the change is necessary and why the organisation should be trusted to bring it about.

When explaining benefits there are clearly positives to be had from using primary and secondary data in the public interest. But what benefits will be delivered in care.data that are not already on offer today?

Why if commissioning is done today with less identifiable data, can there be no alternative to the care.data level of identifiable data extraction? Why if the CPRD offers research in both primary and secondary care today, will care.data offer better research possibilities? And secondly at a micro level, must address questions individuals asked up and down the country in 2014.

What’s missing and possible to be done?

  1. aim to meet genuine ongoing communication needs not just legal data protection fair processing tick-boxes
  2. change organisational attitude that encourages people to ask what they each want to know at macro and micro level – why the programme at all, and what’s in it for me? What’s new and a benefit that differs from the status quo? This is only possible if you will answer what is asked.
  3. deliver robust explanations of the reason why the macro and micro benefits demonstrably outweigh the risk of individual potential harms
  4. demonstrate reliability, honesty, competency and you are trustworthy
  5. agree how scope changes will trigger communication to ‘future-proof’ an ongoing relationship and trust by design.

As the NIB work stream on Public Trust says, “This is not merely a technical exercise to counter negative media attention; substantial change and long-term work is needed to deliver the benefits of data use.”

If they’re serious about that long term work, then why continue to roll out pathfinder communications based on a model that doesn’t work, with an opt out that doesn’t work? Communications isn’t an afterthought to public trust. It’s key.

If you’re interested in details and my proposals for success in communications I’ve outlined in depth below:

  • Why Communicate Changes at all?
  • What is change in care.data about?
  • Is NHS England being honest about why this is hard?
  • Communicate the Benefits is not working
  • A mock case study in why ‘communicate the benefits’ will fail
  • Long term trust needs a long term communications solution
  • How a new model for NHS care.data Communication could deliver

Continue reading “Building Public Trust [4]: “Communicate the Benefits” won’t work for care.data” »

care.data : the economic value of data versus the public interest?

 This is a repost of my opinion piece published in StatsLife in June 2015.

The majority of the public supports the concept of using data for public benefit.[1] But the measurable damage done in 2014 to the public’s trust in data sharing [2] and reasons for it, are an ongoing threat to its achievement.

Rebuilding trust and the public legitimacy of government data gathering could be a task for Sisyphus, given the media atmosphere clouded by the smoke and mirrors of state surveillance. As Mark Taylor, chair of the NHS’s Confidentiality Advisory Group wrote when he considered the tribulations of care.data [3] ‘…we need a much better developed understanding of ‘the public interest’ than is currently offered by law.’

So what can we do to improve this as pilot sites move forward and for other research? Can we consistently quantify the value of the public good and account for intangible concerns and risks alongside demonstrable benefits? Do we have a common understanding of how the public feels what is in its own best interests?

And how are shifting public and professional expectations to be reflected in the continued approach to accessing citizens’ data, with the social legitimacy upon which research depends?

Listening and lessons learned

Presented as an interval to engage the public and professionals, the 18 month long pause in care.data involved a number of ‘listening’ events. I attended several of these to hear what people were saying about the use of personal health data. The three biggest areas of concern raised frequently [4] were:

  • Commercial companies’ use and re-use of data
  • Lack of transparency and control over who was accessing data for what secondary purposes, and
  • Potential resulting harms: from data inaccuracy, loss of trust and confidentiality, and fear of discrimination.

It’s not the use of data per se that the majority of the public raises objection to. Indeed many people would object if health data were not used for research in the public interest. Objections were more about the approach to this in the past and in the future.

There is a common understanding of what bona fide research is, how it serves the public interest, and polls confirm a widespread acceptance of ‘reasonable’ research use of data. The HSCIC audit under Sir Nick Partridge [5] acknowledged that some past users or raw data sharing had not always met public expectations of what was ‘reasonable’. The new secure facility should provide a safe setting for managing this better, but open questions remain on governance and transparency.

As one question from a listening event succinctly put it [6]:

‘Are we saying there will be only clinical use of the data – no marketing, no insurance, no profit making? This is our data.’

Using the information gleaned from data was often seen as exploitation when used in segmenting the insurance markets, consumer market research or individual targeting. There is also concern, even outright hostility, to raw health data being directly sold, re-used or exchanged as a commodity – regardless whether this is packaged as ‘for profit’ or ‘covering administrative costs’.

Add to that, the inability to consent to, control or find out who uses individual level data and for what purpose, or to delete mistakes, and there is a widespread sense of disempowerment and loss of trust.

Quantifying the public perception of care.data’s value

While the pause was to explain the benefits of the care.data extraction, it actually seemed clear at meetings that people already understood the potential benefits. There is clear public benefit to be gained for example, from using data as a knowledge base, often by linking with other data to broaden scientific and social insights, generating public good.

What people were asking, was what new knowledge would be gained that isn’t gathered from non-identifiable data already? Perhaps more tangible, yet less discussed at care.data events, is the economic benefits for commissioning use by using data as business intelligence to inform decisions in financial planning and cost cutting.

There might be measurable economic public good from data, from outside interests who will make a profit by using data to create analytic tools. Some may even sell information back into the NHS as business insights.

Care.data is also to be an ‘accelerator’ for other projects [7]. But it is hard to find publicly available evidence to a) support the economic arguments for using primary care data in any future projects, and b) be able to compare them with the broader current and future needs of the NHS.

A useful analysis could find that potential personal benefits and the public good overlap, if the care.data business case were to be made available by NHS England in the public domain. In a time when the NHS budget is rarely out of the media it seems a no-brainer that this should be made open.

Feedback consistently shows that making money from data raises more concern over its uses. Who all future users might be remains open as the Care Act 2014 clause is broadly defined. Jamie Reed MP said in the debate [8]: ‘the new clause provides for entirely elastic definitions that, in practice, will have a limitless application.’

Unexpected uses and users of public data has created many of its historical problems. But has the potential future cost of ‘limitless’ applications been considered in the long term public interest? And what of the confidentiality costs [9]? The NHS’s own Privacy Impact Assessment on care.data says [10]:

‘The extraction of personal confidential data from providers without consent carries the risk that patients may lose trust in the confidential nature of the health service.

Who has quantified the cost of that loss of confidence and have public and professional opinions been accounted for in any cost/benefit calculations? All these tangible and intangible factors should be measured in calculating its value in the public interest and ask, ‘what does the public want?’ It is after all, our data and our NHS.

Understanding shifting public expectations

‘The importance of building and maintaining trust and confidence among all stakeholder groups concerned – including researchers, institutions, ethical review boards and research participants – as a basis for effective data sharing cannot be overstated.’ – David Carr, policy adviser at the Wellcome Trust [11]

To rebuild trust in data sharing, individuals need the imbalance of power corrected, so they can control ‘their data’. The public was mostly unaware health records were being used for secondary purposes by third parties, before care.data. In February 2014, the secretary of state stepped in to confirm an opt-out will be offered, as promised by the prime minister in his 2010 ‘every patient a willing research patient’ speech.

So leaving aside the arguments for and against opt-in versus opt-out (and that for now it is not technically possible to apply the 700,000 opt-outs already made) the trouble is, it’s all or nothing. By not offering any differentiation between purposes, the public may feel forced to opt-out of secondary data sharing, denying all access to all their data even if they want to permit some uses and not others.

Defining and differentiating secondary uses and types of ‘research purposes’ could be key to rebuilding trust. The HSCIC can disseminate information ‘for the purposes of the provision of health care or adult social care, or the promotion of health’. This does not exclude commercial use. Cutting away commercial purposes which appear exploitative from purposes in the public interest could benefit the government, commerce and science if, as a result, more people would be willing to share their data.

This choice is what the public has asked for at care.data events, other research events [12] and in polls, but to date has yet to see any move towards. I feel strongly that the government cannot continue to ignore public opinion and assume its subjects are creators of data, willing to be exploited, without expecting further backlash. Should a citizen’s privacy become a commodity to put a price tag on if it is a basic human right?

One way to protect that right is to require an active opt-in to sharing. With ongoing renegotiation of public rights and data privacy at EU level, consent is no longer just a question best left ignored in the pandora’s box of ethics, as it has been for the last 25 years in hospital data secondary use. [13]

The public has a growing awareness, differing expectations, and different degrees of trust around data use by different users. Policy makers ignoring these expectations, risk continuing to build on a shaky foundation and jeopardise the future data sharing infrastructure. Profiting at the expense of public feeling and ethical good practice is an unsustainable status quo.

Investing in the public interest for future growth

The care.data pause has revealed differences between the thinking of government, the drivers of policy, the research community, ethics panels and the citizens of the country. This is not only about what value we place on our own data, but how we value it as a public good.

Projects that ignore the public voice, that ‘listen’ but do not act, risk their own success and by implication that of others. And with it they risk the public good they should create. A state which allows profit for private companies to harm the perception of good research practice sacrifices the long term public interest for short term gain. I go back to the words of Mark Taylor [3]:

‘The commitment must be an ongoing one to continue to consult with people, to continue to work to optimally protect both privacy and the public interest in the uses of health data. We need to use data but we need to use it in ways that people have reason to accept. Use ‘in the public interest’ must respect individual privacy. The current law of data protection, with its opposed concepts of ‘privacy’ and ‘public interest’, does not do enough to recognise the dependencies or promote the synergies between these concepts.’ 

The economic value of data, personal rights and the public interest are not opposed to one another, but have synergies and a co-dependency. The public voice from care.data listening could positively help shape a developing consensual model of data sharing if the broader lessons learned are built upon in an ongoing public dialogue. As Mark Taylor also said, ‘we need to do this better.’

*******

[1] according to various polls and opinions gathered from my own discussions and attendance at care.data events in 2014 [ refs: 2, 4. 6. 12]

[2] The data trust deficit, work by the Royal Statistical Society in 2014

[3] M Taylor, “Information Governance as a Force for Good? Lessons to be Learnt from Care.data”, (2014) 11:1 SCRIPTed 1 http://script-ed.org/?p=1377

[4] Communications and Change – blogpost http://jenpersson.com/care-data-communications-change/

[5] HSCIC audit under Sir Nick Partridge https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/review-of-data-releases-made-by-the-nhs-information-centre

[6] Listening events, NHS Open Day blogpost http://jenpersson.com/care-data-communications-core-concepts-part-two/

[7] Accelerator for projects mentioned include the 100K Genomics programme https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s8HCbXsC4z8

[8] Hansard http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm140311/debtext/140311-0002.htm

[9] Confidentiality Costs; StatsLife http://www.statslife.org.uk/opinion/1723-confidentiality-costs

[10] care.data privacy impact assessment Jan 2014 [newer version has not been publicly released] http://www.england.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/pia-care-data.pdf

[11] Wellcome Trust http://blog.wellcome.ac.uk/2015/04/08/sharing-research-data-to-improve-public-health/

[12]  Dialogue on Data – Exploring the public’s views on using linked administrative data for research purposes: https://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/publications/1652/Dialogue-on-Data.aspx

[13] HSCIC Lessons Learned http://www.hscic.gov.uk/article/4780/HSCIC-learns-lessons-of-the-past-with-immediate-programme-for-change

The views expressed in this article originally published in the Opinion section of StatsLife are solely mine, the original author. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of The Royal Statistical Society.

Off the record – a case study in NHS patient data access

Patient online medical records’ access in England was promised by April 2015.

HSCIC_statsJust last month headlines abounded “GPs ensure 97% of patients can access summary record online“. Speeches carried the same statistics.  So what did that actually mean? The HSCIC figures released in May 2015 showed that while around 57 million patients can potentially access something of their care record only 2.5 million or 4.5% of patients had actively signed up for the service.

In that gap lies a gulf of a difference. You cannot access the patient record unless you have signed up for it, so to give the impression that 97% of patients can access a summary record online is untrue.  Only 4.5% can, and have done so. While yes, this states patients must request access, the impression is somewhat misrepresentative.

Here’s my look at what that involved and once signed up, what ‘access your medical records’ actually may mean in practice.

The process to getting access

First I wrote a note to the practice manager about a month ago, and received a phone call a few days later to pop in any time. A week later, I called to check before I would ‘pop in’ and found that the practice manager was not in every day, and it would actually have to be when she was.

I offered to call back and arrange a suitable date and time. Next call, we usefully agreed the potential date I could go in, but I’d have to wait to be sure that the paper records had first been retrieved from the external store (since another practice closed down ours had become more busy than ever and run out of space.) I was asked whether I had already received permission from the practice manager and to confirm that I knew there would be a £10 charge.

So, one letter, four phone calls and ten pounds in hard cash later, I signed a disclosure form this morning to say I was me and I had asked to see my records, and sat in a corner of the lovely practice manager’s office with a small thinly stuffed Lloyd George envelope, and a few photocopied or printed-out A4 pages  (so I didn’t get to actually look at my own on-screen record the GP uses) and a receipt.

What did my paper records look like?

My oldest notes on paper went back as far as 1998 and were for the most part handwritten. Having lived abroad since there was then a ten year gap until my new registration and notes moved onto paper prints of electronic notes.

These included referral for secondary care, correspondence between consultants and my GP and/or to and from me.

The practice manager was very supportive and tolerant of me taking up a corner of her office for half an hour. Clutching a page with my new log-in for the EMIS web for patient records access, I put the papers back, said my thank yous and set off home.

Next step: online

I logged on at home to the patient access system. Having first had it in 2009 when I registered, I hadn’t used the system since as it had very limited functionality, and I had had good health. Now I took the opportunity to try it again.

By asking the GP practice reception, I had been assigned a PIN, given the Practice ID, an Access ID and confirmation of my NHS number all needed entry in Step 1:

emis1

 

Step 2: After these on screen 2, I was asked for my name, DOB, and to create a password.

emis2

 

Step 3: the system generated a long number user ID which I noted down.

Step 4: I looked for the data sharing and privacy policy. Didn’t spot with whom data entered would be shared or for what purposes and any retention or restrictions of purposes. I’d like to see that added.

emis3
Success:

Logged on using my new long user ID and password, I could see an overview page with personal contact details, which were all accurate.  Sections for current meds, allergies, appointments, medical record, personal health record and repeats prescriptions. There was space for overview of height, BMI and basic lifestyle (alcohol and smoking) there too.

emis4c

 

A note from 2010 read: “refused consent to upload national. sharing. electronic record.” Appropriately some may perhaps think, this was recorded in the “problems” section, which was otherwise empty.

Drilling down to view the medication record,  the only data held was the single most recent top line prescription without any history.

emis4b

 

And the only other section to view was allergies, similarly and correctly empty:

emis5

The only error I noted was a line to say I was due an MMR immunization in June 2015. [I will follow up to check whether one of my children should be due for it, rather than me.]

What else was possible?

Order repeat prescription: If your practice offers this service there is a link called Make a request in the Repeat Prescriptions section of the home page after you have signed in. This was possible. Our practice already does it direct with the pharmacy.

Book an appointment: with your own GP from dates in a drop down.

Apple Health app integration: The most interesting part of the online access was this part that suggested it could upload a patient’s Apple health app data, and with active patient consent, that would be shared with the GP.

emis6

 

It claims: “You can consent to the following health data types being shared to Patient Access and added to your Personal Health Record (PHR):”

  • Height
  • Weight
  • BMI
  • Blood Glucose
  • Blood Pressure (Diastolic & Systolic)
  • Distance (walked per day)
  • Forced expired volume
  • Forced Vital capacity
  • Heart Rate
  • Oxygen Saturation
  • Peak Expiratory Flow
  • Respiratory rate
  • Steps (taken per day)

“This new feature is only available to users of IOS8 who are using the Apple Health app and the Patient Access app.”

 

With the important caveat for some: IOS 8.1 has removed the ability to manually enter Blood Glucose data via the Health app. Health will continue to support Blood Glucose measurements added via 3rd party apps such as MySugr and iHealth.

Patient Access will still be able to collect any data entered and we recommend entering Blood Glucose data via one of those free apps until Apple reinstate the capability within Health.

What was not possible:

To update contact details: The practice configures which details you are allowed to change. It may be their policy to restrict access to change some details only in person at the practice.

Viewing my primary care record: other than a current medication there was nothing of my current records in the online record. Things like test results were not in my online record at all, only on paper. Pulse noted sensible concerns about this area in 2013.

Make a correction: clearly the MMR jab note is wrong, but I’ll need to ask for help to remove it.

“Currently the Patient Access app only supports the addition of new information; however, we envisage quickly extending this functionality to delete information via the Patient Access service.” How this will ensure accuracy and avoid self editing I am unsure.

Questions: Who can access this data?

While the system stated that “the information is stored securely in our accredited data centre that deals solely with clinical data. ” there is no indication of where, who manages it and who may access it and why.

In 2014 it was announced that pharmacies would begin to have access to the summary care record.

“A total of 100 pharmacies across Somerset, Northampton, North Derbyshire, Sheffield and West Yorkshire will be able to view a patient’s summary care record (SCR), which contains information such as a patient’s current medications and allergies.”

Yet clearly in the Summary Care Record consent process in 2010 from my record, pharmacists were not mentioned.

Does the patient online access also use the Summary Care Record or not? If so, did I by asking for online access, just create a SCR without asking for one? Or is it a different subset of data? If they are different, which is the definitive record?

Overall:

From stories we read it could appear that there are broad discrepancies between what is possible in one area of the country from another, and between one practice and another.

Clearly to give the impression that 97% of patients can access summary records online is untrue to date if only 4.5% actually can get onto an electronic system, and see any part of their records, on demand today.

How much value is added to patients and practitioners in that 4.5% may vary enormously depending upon what functionality they have chosen to enable at different locations.

For me as a rare user of the practice, there is no obvious benefit right now. I can book appointments during the day by telephone and meds are ordered through the chemist. It contained no other information.

I don’t know what evidence base came from patients to decide that Patient Online should be a priority.

How many really want and need real time, online access to their records? Would patients not far rather the priority in these times of austerity, the cash and time and IT expertise be focused on IT in direct care and visible by their medics? So that when they visit hospital their records would be available to different departments within the hospital?

I know which I would rather have.

What would be good to see?

I’d like to get much clearer distinction between the data purposes we have of what data we share for direct and indirect purposes, and on what legal basis.

Not least because it needs to be understandable within the context of data protection legislation. There is often confusion in discussions of what consent can be implied for direct care and where to draw its limit.

The consultation launched in June 2014 is still to be published since it ended in August 2014, and it too blurred the lines between direct care and secondary purposes.  (https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/protecting-personal-health-and-care-data).

Secondly, if patients start to generate potentially huge quantities of data in the Apple link and upload it to GP electronic records, we need to get this approach correct from the start. Will that data be onwardly shared by GPs through care.data for example?

But first, let’s start with tighter use of language on communications. Not only for the sake of increased accuracy, but so that as a result expectations are properly set for policy makers, practitioners and patients making future decisions.

There are many impressive visions and great ideas how data are to be used for the benefit of individuals and the public good.

We need an established,  easy to understand, legal and ethical framework about our datasharing in the NHS to build on to turn benefits into an achievable reality.

Public data in private hands – should we know who manages our data?

When Tesco reportedly planned to sell off its data arm Dunnhumby [1] in January this year, it was a big deal.

Clubcard and the data which deliver customer insights – telling the company who we are, what we buy and how and when we shop using ‘billions of lines of code’ – will clearly continue to play a vital role in the supermarket customer relations strategy, whether its further processing and analysis is in-house or outsourced.

Assuming the business is sold,  clubcard shoppers might wonder who will then own their personal data, if not the shoppers themselves? Who is the data controller and processor? Who will inform customers of any change in its management?

“Dunnhumby has functioned as a standalone outfit in the past few years, offering customer information services to other retailers around the world, and could operate in a similar way for Tesco post-acquisition.”

I haven’t seen in the same media that the Dunnhumby speculation turned into a sale. At least not yet.

In contrast to the commercial company managing customer data for those who choose to take part, the company which manages the public’s data for many state owned services, was sold in December.

For an undisclosed value, Northgate Public Services [2] part of NIS was sold in Dec 2014 to Cinven, a European private equity firm.

What value I wondered does the company have of itself, or what value is viewed intrinsic to the data it works with – health screening, the National Joint Registry and more? It formerly managed HES data. What was part of the deal? Are the data part of the package?

Does the public have transparency of who manages our data?

Northgate has, according to their website, worked with public data, national and local government administrative data since 1969, including the development and management of the NNADC, “the mission critical solution providing continuous surveillance of the UK’s road network. The NADC is integrated with other databases, including the Police National Computer, and supports more than 3 million reads a day across the country.”

Northgate manages welfare support payments for many local authorities and the Welsh Assembly Government.

Data are entrusted to these third parties by the commercial or public body, largely without informing the public.

One could argue that a ‘named owner and processor’ is irrelevant to the public, which is probably true when things are done well.

But when things go wrong or are changed, should ‘the supplier’ of the data, or rather the public whose data it is, not be told?

If so, citizens would be informed and know who now accesses or even owns our public data that Northgate had in the past. Different firms will have different levels of experience, security measures and oversight of their practices than others. To understand how this works could be an opportunity for transparency to create trust.

Trust which is badly needed to ensure consensual data sharing continues.

So what will the future hold for these systems now owned by a private equity firm?

The buyer of Northgate Public Services, Cinven, has experience making a profit in healthcare.

We hear few details of plans available in the public domain about the NHS vision for data management and its future in public research.

We generally hear even less about the current management of the public’s data unless it is in a crisis, as front page stories will testify to over the last year. care.data has been in good company generating anger, with HMRC, the electoral register and other stories of legal, but unexpected data use of citizens’ data.

As a result we don’t know what of our public data is held by whom.

The latest news reported by the DM [3] will not be popular either given that 2/3rds of people asked in research into public trust over the governance of data [4] have concerns about public data in the hands of private firms:

Controversial plans to give private companies such as Google responsibility for storing people’s private personal health data could be revived, a minister has suggested.”

Could there ever be privatisation plans afoot for HSCIC?

It’s going to be interesting to see what happens next, whoever is making these decisions on our behalf after May 7th.

Certainly the roadmap, business plan, SIAM goals, and framework agreement [5] have given me cause to consider this before. The framework agreement specifically says change to its core functions or duties would require further primary legislation.”
[HSCIC DH framework agreement]

hscic_DH_framework

 

Changes to the HSCIC core remit, such as privatising the service, would require a change in legislation which would by default inform parliament.

Should there not be the same onus to inform the public whose data they are? Especially with “protection of patients being paramount”.  One could say protections should apply to our consumer data too.

Regardless of whether data are managed in-house or by another third party, by the state or commercial enterprise, if third parties can be outsourced or even sold, should consumers not always know who owns our data and of any changes in that guardianship?

Taking into account the public mistrust of commercial companies’ data management I would like to think so.

Further privatising the workings of our state data without involving the public in the process would certainly be a roadmap to driving public confidence on data sharing into the ground.

So too, when it comes to public trust, we might find when the commercial sale of consumer Clubcard data goes ahead, every little does not help.

****

Refs:

[1] Computing 14.01.2015 – article by Sooraj Shah: http://www.computing.co.uk/ctg/feature/2390197/what-does-tescos-sale-of-dunnhumby-mean-for-its-data-strategy

[2] Northgate sale to Cinven http://www.northgate-is.com/press-release-nps.html / http://www.northgatepublicservices.co.uk/

[3]  On the future of data handling http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3066758/Could-Google-look-NHS-data-Controversial-plans-revived-minister-says-technology-firms-best-placed-look-information-securely.html

[4] Ipsos MORI research with the Royal Statistical Society into the Trust deficit with lessons for policy makers https://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/3422/New-research-finds-data-trust-deficit-with-lessons-for-policymakers.aspx

[5] HSCIC DH Framework agreement http://www.hscic.gov.uk/media/13866/Framework-Agreement-between-the-Department-of-Health-and-the-HSCIC/pdf/Framework_Agreement_between_the_Department_of_Health_and_the_Health_and_Social_Care_Information_Cent.pdf

care.data related December news you may have missed in the holiday

January looks like it’s going to be a busy NHS news month and December set out a very information rich programme.

Do you need a catch up from the holidays time? I know I could do with going back to September really, I blinked and missed the last quarter. But lots of news came in at the end of year, in typical holiday time, which is relevant to care.data, health data sharing and its backdrop:

[1] December 18th:  The Independent Information Governance Oversight Panel report raises questions about the preparation for a pilot stage of the care.data programme.

A very thorough and  most significant report. I considered this is more detail here.

[2] December 22nd: The Primary Care Support (PCS) Services procurement. Launched in November 2014 interested suppliers were asked to respond to a Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ).

“Members of our Stakeholder Group, staff from the PCS Service and experts in the procurement team have been evaluating the responses received from the PQQ. We have now produced a short list of suppliers to invite to the next stage of the procurement. We will be announcing the shortlisted suppliers in January 2015.”

How will this affect primary care records’ management and is that unknown being factored into current decision making?

[3] December 28th The Guardian reported the delayed Rose Report would be out in January and say the NHS is hampered by poor management structure.

[4] December 30th Poulter announces DWP prescription check “The government is planning to give High Street pharmacists access to Department of Work and Pensions IT systems to check whether patients in England are entitled to free prescriptions.”

This raises a raft of questions on data protection with implications for patient confidentiality, expected purposes, informed consent and data linkage.

[5] December: a New HSCIC Code of Confidentiality

A longer read and leaves not everyone content it addresses all the needed questions. Opt outs and technical solutions on anonymisation remain two areas of undefined detail relevant for care.data.

[6] January 2nd: IIGOP annual report How health and social care organisations are implementing recommendations about sharing information.

This is a key publication on data sharing as a whole [not only care.data] – snuck in on one of the quietest days of the year perhaps? Some points of particular mention are those which set expectations for legislation change:

“During a debate in the House of Lords in May 2014, in the face of criticism of the care.data programme, the Government said it was sympathetic to calls for IIGOP to be placed on a statutory footing.”

One can only expect then it is a question of when, not if, the IIGOP role will become enshrined in law. Before the next major data sharing step for care.data, the planned pathfinders perhaps?

The second piece of law needing defined and actioned goes back almost a year to February 2014 and Mr. Hunt’s promise of a statutory opt out, which would seem fundamental to any next step step and pilots.

On opt out IIGOP said:

“It is the view of IIGOP that progress at a nationwide level in achieving appropriate sharing of information for direct care will not be satisfactory until core building blocks are in place, including agreement on terminology, clarity on consent and consistency of arrangements for objection and “opt out.”

That opt out refers to all medical data sharing, not only that for care.data, which comes in for criticism but notes some positive side effects:

“The unintended consequence of care.data was a positive cycle of change.”

Most positively, the report notes the changed attitude to public awareness and expectations around personal data management:

“Over the past year, the subject of information governance has moved from the backwaters of organisational management into the mainstream of public discussion. Debate about when it is right to share people’s care data is no longer restricted to policymakers, technical experts and medical ethicists.”

[7] January 5th: The Health and Social Care Information Centre will launch a secure data lab for viewing sensitive patient data in March, allowing it to support the pathfinder stage of NHS England’s controversial care.data programme.

What about opt out – technical feasibility and the Ministers promises to put it into legislation, still not done yet?

[8] Public health commissioning in the NHS 2015 to 2016 plan

Everything connected to everything in the market matters in the bigger picture. See [2], [4] and consider commercial data uses.

[9] Predictions from professionals for 2015 via EHI Insider: A clear direction for NHS IT was set in 2014; but could be disrupted by the general election due on 7 May, according to experts asked for their predictions for healthcare IT in 2015.

So, this quarter is getting off to an information-rich start with the December releases of reports and news having laid an interesting foundation for the coming quarter. And election purdah at the end of March…

[10] My own care.data wish list – no more surprises please  – what will care.data plans hold for 2015?

 

****

References:

[1] IIGOP care.data report https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/iigop-report-on-caredata

[2] Primary Care support services outsourcing / transformation http://www.england.nhs.uk/commissioning/wp-content/uploads/sites/12/2014/12/Final_Stakeholder_Update_December_2014-.pdf

[3] The Rose Report http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/dec/28/nhs-management-system-complex-rose-report

[4] www.ehi.co.uk/news/EHI/9813/poulter-announces-dwp-prescription-check

[5] HSCIC code of confidentiality http://systems.hscic.gov.uk/infogov/codes/cop/code.pdf

[6] IIGOP Annual Report: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/iigop-annual-report-2014

[7] HSCIC secure data lab news: http://www.ehi.co.uk/news/primary-care/9815/hscic-data-lab-to-launch-in-march

[8] Commissioning plans: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/public-health-commissioning-in-the-nhs-2015-to-2016

[9] 2015 Predictions: http://www.ehi.co.uk/news/primary-care/9800/coming-up-in-2015

[10] My own wish list fior care.data in 2015:  http://jenpersson.com/care-data-2015-list/

Oh, and my New Year’s Resolution, I’m cutting my posts in half. Nothing over 1000 words.

Rebuilding trust in care.data

In response to a care.data feature in the November Pharma Times Magazine,  I wrote a brief reader letter which was published, slightly abbreviated, on p.13 in the December issue.[1]

The November article had given me the impression that legislation in the Care Act from July was considered to have ironed out most patient concerns.

And it said that GPs opting patients out at practice level ‘would be illegal’.

I suggested three things.

1. The importance that legislation would be seen and enacted before the pathfinders to:

a) shore up trust of the broad definition of purposes to rule out commercial [re]use

b) enact an opt out

c) lend any legal weight to the role of National Data Guardian

Public and professional scrutiny and consultation on these changes will be required to ensure much talked of transparency is seen to be meaningful

2. Pathfinders must not only as the article stated intend to “test all aspects of communication and extraction”  in the pilot, but have a watertight plan for managing the planned broadening of both scope and access [2]

after all, how can communications be tested and considered effective which tell patients only part of the story how their data is planned to be used in future? Its merger with social care data, just one example.

and

3. a clarification was worth noting on the GP position regards opt out; that with certain conditions, the ICO had said that GPs opting out patients at practice level would be lawful regards their Data Protection obligations.

Data protection laws do not prevent doctors from adopting the approach recommended by the group Patient Concern, practice-wide opt out and offering opt-in at local level, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) had said, providing certain conditions are met.

“If GPs choose to opt out all of their patients, then that is an issue for them and NHS England – the Data Protection Act does not prevent it,” said strategic liaison group manager at the ICO, Dawn Monaghan, according to a report in GP Online and Pulse. [3]

“However, the Data Protection Act would still require patients to be given a full explanation of the options open to them, and why the GP has chosen to opt them out.”

The Health and Social Care Act however requires GPs to release data to the HSCIC so would practices be in non-compliance with the Health and Social Care Act by doing so?

NHS England threatened one practice in November 2013 with penalties for doing just that a year ago. In fact, it was that position and article [4] which first prompted me to join the twitter social media debate, and my very first tweet on care.data.

caredata twitter

 

A full year on, and here we are, still unclear on opt out.

A full year on and our HES and other data is still being released without our consent, or fair processing.

Whilst the GPs may remain unclear if they would be sanctioned for practice wide opt out of care.data even if they maintain data protection compliance, it seems the penalty for data misuse after release is unchanged.

Whilst there was talk of new penalties for data misuse by companies and organisations, no ‘one strike and out’ ever materialised.

Whilst legislation by the Secretary of State promised patients a statutory right to opt out, it hasn’t happened.

On February 25th 2014, he said in Parliament:

“people should be able to opt out from having their anonymised data used for the purposes of scientific research.” [col 148]

“When they extended the programme to out-patient data in 2003 and to A and E data in 2008, at no point did they give people the right to opt out. We have introduced that right, which is why we are having the debate.” [5]

However until that opt out for our GP care.data and our A and E, HES, and other data for secondary purposes is on a legal footing, the opt out has no value for patients compared with the weight of the Health and Social Care Act.

When will the Secretary of State follow through on his word?

Right now, our HES/other secondary data is being released even if we have indicated our opt out to GPs for secondary uses, 9nu4. [6]

It appears to date, we lack both legislation and the technical tool to operate the opt out.

This position seems to be in urgent need of clarification for patients to have our opt out rights confirmed for both GP held data and the existing data held by HSCIC. As well as needing clarified for the GPs and HSCIC as data controllers to be clear on their responsibilities.

When the system has proven so flawed in the past we need change to show why it is different now.

It’s not enough to tell patients things will be different. We want to see that they are.

We can only trust a system which is underpinned in law particularly at a time when, ahead of a General Election, many promises may have been made and will be made. Ministers move roles. Their word alone is frankly, going to be of little value to many. Experience tells us, promises may not always turn out as expected in practice.

I asked one of my local community leaders what he thought of the current position on the programme and what his reaction would be if in fact the opt out came to naught and health data was to be extracted and used for research without consent. “We’d be out on the streets,” [in protest] was his prompt reply. Whilst many are happy for data to be used in research, the majority want to know about it first; who will access it and for what purpose. Not everyone is happy for their data to be used in research. And over half were happy only with active consent or not at all, according to a survey carried out by Ipsos MORI in June 2014.[7]

The Data Guardian role [8] too, should be a positive addition to underpin the importance of ethical practice in data management but again, can only be truly meaningful with legislative weight behind it.

The recent DH November announcement said this would happen, ‘at the earliest opportunity.’

How much longer will it be before that opportunity?

When can we expect to see the rules around uses, opt out and the oversight role of the Data Guardian published for public and professional consultation and scrutiny?

If we are to rebuild trust in the programme, it must first offer a foundation for doing so.

*

In the same Pharma Times December issue [2] there is also a feature on George Freeman MP and on EU Data sharing. Well worth a read.

My submitted reader letter:

Your November article ‘Taking care of our data’ states proposed changes to the Care Act 2014 will be laid before Parliament in the new year.

It is imperative this is done before the care.data pilots’ launch. Only meaningful changes underpinned in law will provide patients the basis on which to rebuild their trust in the programme.

Data use purposes remain overly broad, the newly appointed role of National Data Guardian has no legal teeth, and the Health Secretary’s word that a patient’s objection will be respected, is not enough.

The rules around access, oversight and opt out must be pinned down.

And parliamentary scrutiny of these changes, open to professional and public consultation, will be fundamental to public confidence.

Pathfinders must not only ‘‘test all aspects of the communication and extraction process” ready for an imminent rollout. New communications must present real improvements and a watertight plan for managing the planned broadening of the future scope and access.

And finally, one clarification worth noting; under certain conditions, the ICO ruled that GPs opting out patients at practice level would be lawful regards their Data Protection obligations.

Refs:

[1] December Pharma Times p 13

[2] care.data expansion roadmap

[3] GP Online October 22, 2014

[4] Pulse, November 2013

[5] Hansard, February 25th 2014

[6] HSCIC DARS releases

[7] Ipsos MORI poll of almost 2000

[8] National Data Guardian appointed  November 13, 2014