To share or not to share – that is the question? Health data and cybersecurity #LeedsDigi17

Zoe Limbert

As we move towards an increasingly digitally-driven integrated health and care system, cyber security is becoming a massive issue, with health and care records representing an extremely attractive target for cyber criminals. Accordingly, the Department of Health is expected to invest £1bn to tackle this issue, nationally and locally, including implementing new safeguards for keeping health and care information secure and ensuring the public can make informed choices about how their data is used.

The Securing our Health Data: the fear factor – is it overblown?  workshop will explore some of the key concerns from a number of perspectives within health and wider public sector and encourage participants to think about what more can be done now and as new threats arise in the future.

In advance of thYunus-Mayat-2-138x138e workshop, Yunus Mayat, Enterprise Architect and Information Manager at City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council, shares his thoughts:

“I believe that working with data is a privilege.  I know that, at my fingertips, data gives me the ability to gain in-depth understanding of so many disciplines and concepts, but importantly, I can use that data to develop solutions to some of the current challenges we face.  And why is this a privilege? Because that data doesn’t belong to me.  It is generated by you, your families, your colleagues, your organisations and even your household objects and therefore, for me to handle it, I know I must treat it with care.

This is particularly true of the area that I am very familiar with – children’s services.  As you know, data about children is treated with the utmost care and there are many policies and protocols in place to ensure that information relating to children is seen only by those people who absolutely need to see it. In many cases, the data is anonymised or pseudo-anonymised.  This is done to mitigate risk and to protect the child in question.    

In Bradford, we put great emphasis on training which makes sure that everyone who is handling that data is aware of their responsibility to protect it. This includes when and how to share data and who to share it with. Yet, like other areas I work with through my involvement with the Yorkshire and Humber Warning Alerts and Response Point, people sometimes struggle with the concept that sharing particular datasets can be the most important factor in providing greater intelligence with the work they do with the people in the district that they are serving.

I’ll use the example of Looked After Children, some of the most vulnerable children in our society.  We must do our very best to protect and support these children, and this includes the effective and secure management of their data.  Yet at Bradford Council, we know that very often, by the time Looked After Children reach our radar, they have often had countless interactions with other services such as the NHS, police and education and have been known to “the system” for a number of years.

I believe that if we joined up “the system” data more effectively, we would have the opportunity to identify those children who will become Looked After much earlier on in their lives.  This would allow us to set up systems and interventions for that child and their family that could prevent them ever needing to use Children’s Care services.  This data sharing would also allow us to plan children’s care services more effectively, it would leave to improved life experiences for children and yes, it would also save money –  A 2014 report from the National Audit Office  stated that the annual cost of residential care for a child was between £131,000– £135,000 per child. 

I believe when we start to share data (and have that assurance and security that the data is being protected) the benefits to individuals and organisations are huge  – as is the potential to reduce costs to public services. This is why I am rising to the data sharing challenge to hopefully change hearts and minds when it comes to sharing of data.  I want to removing the stigma that currently exists and enable people to understand the wider benefits of data sharing. Data sharing gives us the opportunity to make a difference”.


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