Mid-September Update

It’s been a busy few weeks for consultations and briefings. While links are (usually) tweeted as we publish them, the below is a consolidated summary of events. We’ll send a newsletter in the week or so, with other information, including last week’s re-announcement of the new NHS apps library.

Following the change in Prime Minister, there is a new Minister for these issues in the Department of Health. We welcome Nicola Blackwood MP into the post. Her track record as chair of the Science and Technology committee stands her in very good stead, as does her first public speech on her new remit.

The Caldicott Consultation

NHS England has published a series of 3 “discussion events” in London, Southampton, and Leeds. They start 3 weeks after the consultation closed, and end 3 weeks before the Department aim to respond.

Our main submission to the Caldicott Consultation was submitted before the deadline. A supplementary will follow, because of subsequent events.

Updated October 10th: first supplementary publication.

Public Health England

The contents of this consultation, and this Report, suggest that the lessons of care.data  have not yet reached Public Health England. With the Government response to the Caldicott Review, they will have to. This will be a focus of our first supplementary submission to the Caldicott Consultation

Update (19/Sep): We’ve published our blood spot consultation response.


The Investigatory Powers Bill has added an extra tickbox if the Agencies want access to health data. Ironically, this is one area where those overseas have greater protections than those in the UK – there is far more concern about the reaction of foreign governments/press than there is about our own.

The Digital Economy Bill has also begun lumbering through Parliament, published shortly after the Referendum with relatively little content. We’ll have more than our initial briefing in due course. The “data science” work of Cabinet Office can easily justify care.data, and doesn’t seem to understand what personal data is. The problems with this Bill are solely of Cabinet Office’s making.


As HSCIC has now confirmed (page 246), we have a complaint into the Information Commissioner. It covers the “definition” of anonymisation used to exclude opt outs being applied to hospital data. Here is a short summary of what Anonymisation is (and isn’t) in 2016. It is easy to forget the full meaning of “personal data” when there’s a desire to ignore it.

We also responded to the Privacy Impact Assessment consultation on the Hospital Episode Statistics.

What’s in a name?

HSCIC has changed its trading name to NHS Digital. For the next little while, we will use NHS Digital to refer to NHS services provided by the organisation, and HSCIC to refer to actions as an Arms Length Body of the Department of Health. Despite the name, NHS Digital is not an NHS body: it is accountable to Secretary of State, not NHS England.