New data sharing blueprint for public services proposed

April 26, 2018

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Public service providers need more help deciding when it is appropriate to share personal data about the public to improve services.

The ‘Data for Public Benefit’ report, published jointly by Involve, the Carnegie UK Trust and Understanding Patient Data (UPD), found that the sharing of personal data across public services has the potential to bring significant improvements to the quality of services offered to individuals and communities. But the sharing of personal data carries a number of risks.

The study, which is based on workshops with 120 professionals in England across the housing, criminal justice, health and social care sectors, identifies that while data can currently be legally shared between different public services in a wide variety of circumstances, there is no consistent approach to the issue across the country.

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

To help tackle the problem, Involve, Carnegie UK Trust and UPD have recommended that data sharing must always be ‘purposeful, proportionate and responsible’. They have published a new 18-question framework to support public services assess the benefits and risks in different scenarios.

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

Simon Burall, Senior Associate at Involve, said: “The use of data for commercial purposes has been in the news a lot recently. But data can, of course, also be used for public good by public service providers keen to provide better, faster, more responsive services to their communities. However, public services currently lack clarity and confidence about how the public understand and balance the benefits and risks of data sharing. This new framework will support local government to develop a more productive dialogue with the public about when data sharing is acceptable and when not.”

Douglas White, Head of Advocacy at Carnegie UK Trust, said: “Through our research we have identified a wide range of issues that public services take into consideration when deciding whether or not data should be shared – including the number of people the initiative will help, whether the anticipated benefits clear and measurable and how privacy concerns can be addressed. We hope that our proposed framework can be a valuable tool for all service providers to use and develop, to help answer these questions, and more, and build a more systematic approach to tackling this important and highly complex issue.”

Nicola Perrin, Head of Understanding Patient Data, said: “People want to see public benefit when personal data is shared, particularly if companies are involved. But it is often difficult to know what this means in practice. This new framework will help to guide decisions to ensure that data is only shared where the use is purposeful, proportionate and responsible. By supporting better conversations with the public about both the benefits and the risks, we can help realise the huge opportunities of using data, particularly in healthcare.”

For the full Data for Public Benefit report click here or for a short animation of the report click here.

For more information contact Grayling by emailing [email protected] or 0131 260 2510