13th November 2013

Written by David Stone

David Stone is Interim Head of Information Governance at South London Commissioning Support Unit.

David is well known in the NHS information governance and wider health and social care IG communities and is a frequent public speaker on the subject.

In this article David warns of another information governance skills shortage.

Skills shortages, austerity or not, always seem to gather and cast their shadow over ambitious new plans.

In 2008, NHS information governance suffered a skills shortage, ratcheting up rates to double or more of their daily average rate of £250 in a very short space of time.

I think we are starting to face a similar demand surge from a daily rate of £300-£350 to one that may pass the £600 mark with some ease.

In 2008 the increase was driven by a big push on information governance following a series of high profile incidents starting with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs high profile loss of 25 million records, which a lot of people will recall. 

Many sectors, not just the NHS, were affected by the resulting demand, not least in implementing the Cabinet Office recommendations.

The 2013-14 surge has different causes, but the slightly comical and unfortunate circumstances that might be puzzling, shocking or indeed a little anger provoking are there.

This year the Health and Social Care Act 2012 has turned the commissioning world upside down, introducing Clinical Commissioning Groups and NHS England, whilst removing SHAs and PCTs.

Andrew Landsley, in drafting the Act paused, and reflected on the NHS Future Forum opinion that information governance was a costly barrier stopping the flow of information for direct clinical care.

Dame Fiona Caldicott was asked to review the situation and found that, among other issues, there is an information governance skills and knowledge shortage, not a simple impediment. 

This must now be exacerbated by the introduction of a new Code of Practice (introduced in the Act in April, although was not published until October – a little late you might think), uncertainty caused by the Caldicott Report, the long wait for the government response, and now a mid-year update to the Information Governance Toolkit.

All NHS organisations must complete the Information Governance Toolkit (IGT) annually and this mandate will likely extend to Adult Social Care in the future.  IGT has a number of specific standards that every NHS trust must self-assess themselves against and be audited to. The mandate for audit is likely to soon extend to social care.

Now, although trusts have been working towards version 11 submission in March 2014 since the beginning of June, an updated version will be introduced in early November.  Organisations must still be at level 2 in all requirements in March 2014, although many Trusts will already have been audited. 

In short there will not be enough information governance professionals at a time of some concern and anxiety to put it mildly. 

With the rising number of fines imposed across health and social care for information governance breaches, I wonder if as in 2008, we heading towards a perfect storm skills shortage in the information governance

With any skills shortage you will hear the plea that we must act now if we are going to operate successfully tomorrow.  This time is no different.  What we do about it today might be.

David can be contacted at david@kaleidoscopeconsultants.com

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