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Data security: What will GPs have to do?

The Government has launched a consultation into the recommendations of the National Data Guardian on patient data security.

The Government has launched a consultation into the recommendations of the National Data Guardian on patient data security.

These have been approved by health secretary Jeremy Hunt in principal, but what is it GPs are being asked to do?

The recommendations from the data guardian includes a list of ten new security standards, which the CQC has said it will inspect practices against.

The National Data Guardian report says: ‘Due to this need for strong leadership in data security, the Review has set out 10 data security standards clustered under three leadership obligations to address people, process and technology issues.’

It said these would:

  • Ensure staff are equipped to handle information respectfully and safely, according to the Caldicott Principles.
  • Ensure the organisation proactively prevents data security breaches and responds appropriately to incidents or near misses.
  • Ensure technology is secure and up-to-date.’

The ten proposed standards are:

  1. All staff ensure that personal confidential data is handled, stored and transmitted securely, whether in electronic or paper form. Personal confidential data is only shared for lawful and appropriate purposes.
  2. All staff understand their responsibilities under the National Data Guardian’s Data Security Standards including their obligation to handle information responsibly and their personal accountability for deliberate or avoidable breaches.
  3. All staff complete appropriate annual data security training and pass a mandatory test, provided through the revised Information Governance Toolkit.
  4. Personal confidential data is only accessible to staff who need it for their current role and access is removed as soon as it is no longer required. All access to personal confidential data on IT systems can be attributed to individuals.
  5. Processes are reviewed at least annually to identify and improve processes which have caused breaches or near misses, or which force staff to use workarounds which compromise data security.
  6. Cyber-attacks against services are identified and resisted and CareCERT security advice is responded to. Action is taken immediately following a data breach or a near miss, with a report made to senior management within 12 hours of detection.
  7. A continuity plan is in place to respond to threats to data security, including significant data breaches or near misses, and it is tested once a year as a minimum, with a report to senior management.
  8. No unsupported operating systems, software or internet browsers are used within the IT estate.
  9. A strategy is in place for protecting IT systems from cyber threats which is based on a proven cyber security framework such as Cyber Essentials. This is reviewed at least annually.
  10. Suppliers are held accountable via contracts for protecting the personal confidential data they process and meeting the National Data Guardian’s Data Security Standard.

Source: Government public consultation

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