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All health and adult social care organisations must, by law, share information with each other about patients they are caring for directly, to improve the care provided. They must also use a patient's NHS number as a consistent identifier when sharing data or information about them. This was set out in the Health and Social Care (Safety and Quality) Act 2015, which aimed to reduce anxiety about data sharing. The 2013 Caldicott Review found that in some cases this anxiety meant patient information was not shared, even when sharing would have been in the best interest of the patient.
We have produced this guidance to help you put these duties into practice, so that patients receive the best possible care, while their information is protected.
The 'sharing with the voluntary sector' guidance has been superseded by ‘Sharing Information about Patients and Service Users with the Voluntary Sector’ which can be found on the Information Governance Portal.
Guidance is now produced by the Health and Care Information Governance Panel.
Information sharing responsibilities
Information sharing and IG - printable leaflets for staff
Information sharing for integrated care and new models of care
Integrated care requires new approaches to information sharing and creates new information governance issues. We've produced a blueprint to demonstrate possible methods of achieving secure integrated working practices. The download pack contains all sample documents referred to in the document.
Resources to help you make decisions on data sharing
A collection of guidance from other organisations, which has been endorsed by the IGA.
Information sharing for community safety: Home office guidance on sharing information with the police and other authorities
Confidentiality: NHS code of Practice: Department of Health guidance on confidentiality, 2003
Confidentiality: NHS Code of Practice Supplementary Guidance - Public Interest Disclosures: Department of Health guidance on when you can share information for the good of the public, 2010
Confidentiality guidance: Sharing information with a patient's partner, carers, relatives or friends: General Medical Council guidance on sharing information with carers and family members
Carers and confidentiality in mental health: issues involved in information-sharing: Royal College of Psychiatrists guidance on sharing information on a patient's mental health with their carer
Joint Guidance on development of local protocols between drug and alcohol treatment services and local safeguarding and family services: Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), Department of Health (DH) and National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA) publication, 2009
Supporting information for the development of joint local protocols between drug and alcohol partnerships, children and family services: NHS National Treatment Agency for substance misuse guidance on sharing information about drug or alcohol misuse for safeguarding reasons, 2011
Information sharing and confidentiality for practitioners - things to know and issues to consider: NSPCC guidance on sharing information to protect children, 2015
Guidance on when you should share information on a child or young person if they do not consent: General Medical Council guidance: UK Council of Caldicott Guardians and Department of Health publication, 2012
Confidentiality guidance: Disclosures about patients who lack capacity to consent: General Medical Council guidance, 2017
0-18 years guidance: Children and young people who lack capacity to consent: General Medical Council guidance
Quick guide: sharing patient information: NHS England publication
Information Sharing for Social Care Employers: A guide to encourage social care employers to think through the issues and to begin to skill their staff so that everyone working in social care and health sees the use and safe sharing of information as part of their responsibility.
Quick guide: Sharing Patient Information for Urgent & Emergency Care: NHS England publication
Patient Online Practice Toolkit: e learning to support GP practices and particularly their information governance leads, to meet the challenges that will arise from Patient Online and consider the implications of what it might mean to practices and their patients
Personal Health Records: learning from voices of experience: A guide for people that shares the experiences of people who have first-hand experience of developing or using Personal Health Records
Understanding Patient Data Website: Website set up to support conversations with the public, patients and healthcare professionals about how health and care data is used.
Caldicott Guardian Manual: UK Council of Caldicott Guardians guidance, 2017.
Confidentiality: good practice in handling patient information: General Medical Council guidance on confidentiality, 2017.
Communication with patients: guidance for NHS staff - Clarification of when you should and shouldn't contact a patient, particularly in relation to telephone calls, voicemail messages and text messages.