Readers will probably have seen the last minute scramble that ensured new commissioning bodies are authorised to handle sensitive personal data for purposes other than direct commissioning of patient care. The NHS Health Research Authority granted NHS England a conditional approval to process data for secondary uses on 5 April. The approval is an exemption under section 251 of the NHS Act 2006, and extends the permissions that had previously been in place for the DH, PCTs and SHAs for three months.

Of more immediate concern for CCGs and CSUs is to react to a warning recently issued by NHS England about data sharing in the context of complaints handling. Those CCGs who have arranged for CSUs to provide a complaints handling service for them, and CSUs providing such services, need to be aware of this alert.

CCGs and CSUs are advised to prepare clear information-sharing protocols, and to ensure that patients who make complaints are given full information about which organisations will access their data and why. For more detail, see the following extract from NHS England's latest bulletin for CCGs: http://www.england.nhs.uk/2013/04/12/ccg-bulletin-issue-32/#complaints.