Thursday will see duties under the Health and Social Care (Safety & Quality) Act 2015 come into force, which will impact on health and social care providers in England and Wales. Below, we have written a short guide to these changes in six easy steps:
1. What is the Health and Social Care (Safety & Quality) Act 2015?
The Health and Social Care (Safety and Quality) Act 2015 is an update to the Health and Social Care Act 2012. It introduces new duties to share service user information and use the NHS number across the health and social care landscape. These are coming into effect from 1st October 2015.
2. What are the changes?
There are a couple of changes, including a new duty to share information about service users where this directly contributes towards their care; and the new requirement to use the NHS number to identify individuals – called a "consistent identifier" – when processing information about them.
3. Who do they affect?
The new rules apply to organisations that commission or provide adult social care in England or NHS services. Private sector bodies and charities who are contracted to deliver these services must also comply.
4. Are there any exclusions?
Yes: including if a patient objects, if the information is connected to services received anonymously (e.g. sexual health services) or if it is not reasonably practical to comply.
5. What are the benefits of the new rules?
The requirement to use the NHS number to identify service users across both adult social care and NHS services should enable service user data to be shared more easily. This in turn will help organisations deliver better integrated care. The statutory duty to share should help improve the flow of data that contributes directly to a service user's care – particularly between NHS bodies and local authorities.
6. What are the operational implications and who/what organisations are affected by these?
It is already recognised best practice that information should be shared between health and social care teams where this contributes directly to a service user's care. This is common within the NHS but sharing across the health/social care divide is more challenging. The new statutory duty to share should help with this. On use of the NHS number the bigger challenge lies with local authorities, whose information governance systems are less likely to already use the NHS number to identify service users.