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Information focus

This section introduces the information focus theme. Resources to support this theme are:

Introduction

The UK government has been pursuing a digital by default approach to the delivery of public services. This approach has several elements. It is investing considerable public funds in open data and “big data”. The open data strategy is making data that is collected by government free to use and reuse for other purposes such as developments in public health. The government is also interested in “big data”, this means exploring the patterns present in very large data sets. This intelligence could also have major implications for decision-making in areas like population health.

The policy is present in the digital strategies of each of the four departments of health. In England, the Department of Health’s information strategy, ‘The power of information: putting all of us in control of the health and care information we need’ sets a ten-year framework for transforming information for the NHS, public health and social care. It aims to harness information and new technologies to achieve higher quality care and improve outcomes for patients and service users (DH, 2012). Underpinned by the Health and Social Care Act 2012, it covers public health, healthcare and social care in adult and children’s services in England.

One of the commitments in the strategy is to give people better access to their care records. This type of technology can help to put the power back in the hands of the patient. People who can access their own records can be empowered to take part in decisions about their own care in a ‘genuine partnership with professionals’ (DH 2012, p.7). One of Scotland’s five strategic eHealth aims is to use information and technology in a coordinated way to help support people in managing their own health and wellbeing, and to become more active participants in the care and services they receive (Scottish Government, 2011, p.19).

The RCN believes that sharing information about patients across the health care service, subject to appropriate safeguards, is an integral part of nursing and multidisciplinary care. “It is acknowledged that access to good quality information helps people to understand their health situation, make informed decisions about their care and treatment, and manage their own health” (RCN, 2012, p. 2).

However, nursing staff have a responsibility to ensure that they are aware of confidentiality and data protection legislation, local policies and professional guidance and do not abuse their privileged access to patient information. The NMC’s Code (NMC, 2008) and principles of good record keeping (NMC, 2010) require nursing staff to keep clear and accurate records and to know how to use information systems and tools and ensure that the systems (and the way they are used) are secure. Dame Fiona Caldicott’s independent review highlights the importance of an appropriate balance between the protection of the patient or user’s information, and the use and sharing of such information to improve care (DH, 2013, p.5).

The RCN Principles of Nursing Practice embed eHealth and the use of information and communication technology (ICT) as a core element of nursing which impacts on every aspect of the care process. Launched in 2010 the RCN Principles of Nursing Practice set out what patients, colleagues, families and carers can expect from nursing. Principle E encompasses themes of communication, handling feedback, record keeping, reporting and monitoring. For further information, see Principle E. Principle H encompasses themes of leadership contributing to an open and responsive culture. For further information, see Principle H.

References

All of the items in this reference list are available online. They were last accessed on 9 September 2013. Some of them are in PDF format – see how to access PDF files.

Department of Health (2013) Information: To share or not to share? The Information Governance Review, London: DH.

Department of Health (2012) The power of information: putting all of us in control of the health and care information we need, London: DH.

NHS Scotland (2011) eHealth strategy 2011-2017, Edinburgh: Scottish Government.

Nursing and Midwifery Council (2010) Record keeping. Guidance for nurses and midwives (PDF 350KB), London: NMC.

Nursing and Midwifery Council (2008) The code: Standards of conduct, performance and ethics for nurses and midwives, London: NMC.

Parliament (2012) Health and social care act, Norwich: Stationery Office.

RCN (2012) eHealth: the future of health care. Royal College of Nursing position statement (PDF 965KB), London: RCN.