One of the vagaries of the “new” health and social care system in which we find ourselves following the introduction of the NHS Act 2006, the Health and Social Care Act 2012, and their interaction with the Data Protection Act is that NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) have never had a lasting legal right to access identifiable patient information. This seems to run counter to some CCG responsibilities, particularly where the need to identify patients is normally needed, i.e. risk stratification and invoice validation. Interestingly, PCTs, CCGs’ predecessor organisations, had a legal right to access patient information to fulfil their functions but this was not transferred.

Commissioner access to patient information has so far been facilitated through provisions in Section 251 of the NHS Act and individual data sharing agreements. This was due to be ended in April 2015 but a year’s grace was granted to organisations to allow them to make arrangements for access to data under section 251 rules, so it is clearly recognised as a potentially widespread problem. 

In May 2016, unprepared CCGs may find themselves in a situation where they lack essential information to perform their legal duties so the clock is ticking…

CCGs must assess their information needs, current processes and internal capabilities now to decide how they will continue to process and access relevant data after 30th April 2016. There are a number of options available, including:

  • Rationalisation of information needs to reduce or eliminate the use of sensitive information
  • Apply to become an accredited Safe Haven (where appropriate controls are in place to protect patient information)
  • Find a suitable partner that has Safe Haven status

There are many issues to be considered in the decision-making process, including:

  • What represents the right strategic choice for the CCG
  • What information is needed to support the CCGs processes and can they be rationalised
  • Where does information come from now and how is it governed and protected
  • What capabilities exist in the organisation already
  • What is the organisations appetite for investment and risk

Channel 3 Consulting’s packaged service is designed to support CCGs to make the right decisions and put in place the necessary arrangements to access patient information from 1st May 2016. Our experienced consultants will work with your organisation to determine its strategy, information needs, current processes and capabilities before recommending the right path to refining information needs and accessing psydonymised patient information and providing a plan to get there – either through an accreditation process to become a Safe Haven or to identify and contract the right partner.


For more information, please contact me at