HSJ’s round-up of the day’s essential health stories

When sharing data is bad for your health

The deal between the Home Office and NHS Digital to share patient data relating to illegal immigrants has bubbled to the surface again, with fresh objections from Public Health England and the National Data Guardian.

Public Health England, a body that normally enthusiastically pro-sharing health data, even suggested the arrangement could be a “serious risk to public health”. It could scare people away from hospitals, compromising efforts to track communicable diseases.

NHS Digital has insisted it’s all a bit of needless fuss and the NHS has been sharing patient data - administrative, mind, not health data - about potential illegal immigrants with the Home Office for years.

The memorandum of understanding that catapulted the deal into the public awareness in January was just tidying up existing arrangements, the line goes.

But there is a more basic question as to whether it’s in public interest for NHS to share data with the Home Office at all.

The National Data Guardian Dame Fiona Caldicott, seems to think, at the very least, this test hasn’t been properly considered in the deal. And a lot of people that should have been involved in that conversation - clinicians for example - were never asked.

Those involved should keep in mind one of the key findings of Dame Fiona’s review last year: the public are broadly happy to share their health data but only if there is an honest open conversation first.

And while NHS Digital has previously fought against efforts from the Home Office to access patient data – at least according to former chair Kingsley Manning – the organisation will soon be run by a Home Office alumnus, when Sarah Wilkinson starts as chief executive later this year.

The current Home Office chief technology official will, no doubt, have her own views on sharing patient data with the rest of government.

Everyone’s a loser

When it comes to the contentious issue of NHS funding allocations, everyone seems to feel like they’ve got a raw deal.

Benchmarking data seen by HSJ has shown which health regions are set to receive the largest budget increases over the next four years.

The data shows which “sustainability and transformation partnerships” are furthest behind their target funding allocations, most of which will be in line for larger funding increases, as part of NHS England’s policy to bring local commissioning bodies further towards their target allocation.

If we divide the country in two, most of those behind their target are all in the south, with most of those ahead of target in the north.

This of course comes back to the allocations formula used by NHS England, which was revised a few years ago, and the weightings given to various factors included deprivation and age profiles.

Those in the south will grumble of historic underfunding, while those in the north now complain of lower than average funding growth. So everyone’s a loser.