DAC Beachcroft Helps Shape Law Commission Data Sharing Report
Published 17 July 2014
Law firm DAC Beachcroft LLP has been instrumental in a report on Data Sharing by the Law Commission that could help shape future legislation for the benefit of local government, health and independent care sectors.
Last year, the Law Commission put out a consultation requesting views from practitioners across the public sector, including local government and health, about data sharing between public bodies with a view to identifying what the perceived barriers were, and ultimately to see if a change around existing legislation was needed, click here.
DAC Beachcroft held workshops at its Leeds, London and Bristol offices to gather views from the public and independent care sectors. The discussions were attended by 38 organisations, including local authorities, Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), NHS providers, national bodies, and consultants working with organisations in the sector.
Following the workshops, a 30 page submission drawing upon the practical examples explored in the consultation workshops was prepared by DAC Beachcroft Partners Anne Crofts, Susan Thompson and Judith Barnes, and Associates Ros Ashcroft and Eleanor Tunnicliffe. The response led to the firm featuring heavily in the Law Commission's report published earlier this week, specifically in relation to a suggestion about the Information Commissioner:
"3.97 The response from DAC Beachcroft invited us to consider proposing the amendment of the legislation so as to require the Information Commissioner to publish details of his consideration of Data Protection Act 1998 issues. It was said to be notable that case law from the courts in both data protection and confidentiality was lacking, so that these decisions would help to provide guidance."
Commenting, Judith Barnes, Partner at DAC Beachcroft, said: "The issue of Data Sharing is complex and challenging. Via a hat-trick of workshops, our team of legal experts, along with clients and contacts, set about identifying key practical and legal issues.
"We are delighted that the content generated from the workshops - especially a proposal that the Information Commissioner publishes decisions - has featured significantly in this crucial report that should ultimately help public bodies to share data more effectively and go some way to assisting with the integration of health and social care if the law in this area is simplified."
The Law Commission concluded that there should be a UK–wide review of the law on data sharing in the public sector, echoing the significant concerns that were raised in the DAC Beachcroft workshops.
- Read the DAC Beachcroft submission to The Law Commission consultation here
- Read the Law Commission Report: 'Data Sharing between Public Bodies, A Scoping Report' here
The stated aims of the project were as follows:
"Public bodies report that they cannot always share the data they need to share and, as a result, miss out on opportunities to provide better services to citizens. At the same time, it is accepted that there is a need to ensure that the security of data and privacy of individuals are not put at risk.
- Is there a problem with the law - does the law itself erect barriers that unduly restrict data sharing between public bodies?
- Is the law too complex and hard to understand - has a lack of clarity in the law led public bodies to develop cultures that prevent lawful data sharing? Is data sharing just too difficult?
- Is there simply a gap in education, guidance and advice?
This project aims to establish whether these perceived obstacles are embedded in practice or culture, or whether they are to do with the substance of the law or how it is written."