Department for Health and Social Care seeks next data watchdog

National data guardian must be able to “relate to and influence" members of the public and government
The national data guardian represents the interests of the public and patients when their data is being processed, such as in the coronavirus test, track and trace system. Photo: Tom Mulholland/EMPICS Entertainment

The Department for Health and Social Care is offering up to £45,000 for a national data guardian to advise and challenge the health and care system on safeguarding citizens’ confidential information.

The successful candidate will represent the interests of patients and the public, and will appoint an independent panel to advise and support their work. They must therefore be able to “relate to and influence members of the public and other stakeholders, including government”, according to a job advert.

The department is seeking a candidate with a track record of “credible and strategic leadership” for the two- to three-day-a-week role. They must also have an understanding of sensitive data and the technology underpinning it, and the ability to evaluate risk and develop strategies to mitigate it.

Dame Fiona Caldicott was appointed the first national data guardian in November 2014 to act as an “independent champion for patients and the public on matters of their confidential health and care information”.

The NDG does not perform a regulatory function. However, in late 2018 the role was given statutory powers to formally guide and challenge the health and social care system. Public bodies including hospitals, care homes and commissioners of services, as well as relevant outsourcers, must take note of the NDG’s guidance on data processing.

The NDG can also issue informal guidance about data processing, after consulting the relevant parties, and must present an annual report to the health secretary.

Caldicott's recent work includes advising on the use of people's data in the NHS's Covid-19 test, track and trace system, and ensuring any third-party access to this data has a clear public benefit.

In June, she called for the NHS and social care services to adopt a rule ensuring there are “no surprises” for citizens in how their data is used.

To succeed Caldicott, candidates must have experience “using data to improve organisations and building data sharing within organisations”, the job advert says.

“This is a high-profile role which would ideally be filled by someone with knowledge of health and social care organisations and the system, the information governance framework within which they operate and in particular the common law duty of confidentiality, how modern information technology can impact on the privacy of individuals, and public attitudes towards the use of health and care data,” the job ad says.

Applications close on 3 September.

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