Nursing and Patient Data – What You Need to Know

You’ve no doubt noticed that your inbox has had a much higher volume of emails over the past month or so. This is because as of 25 May, the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations) came into effect across the EU. The GDPR is a new piece of legislation that affects how personal data is handled by companies and organisations. It is the most significant piece of legislation of its kind for 20 years, designed to improve private data security in a digital world.

The GDPR includes significant changes to data handling. In particular, it shifts to an ‘explicit consent’ model, where individuals must actively consent to their data being stored. It also allows individuals to request access to copies of their own data, and places a higher burden on organisations to prove they are compliant with the regulations.

Much of this is very pertinent to the healthcare sector. Because such a vast number of professions record confidential patient data – including doctors, nurses, dentists and opticians – the sector unfortunately sees a high number of complaints for breaches of patient data. In fact, between January 2014 and December 2016, healthcare accounted for 43% of all complaints for breaches of confidentiality. It’s therefore crucial that those working in healthcare keep abreast of these changes. This guide sets out some of the key GDPR points as they relate to healthcare, particularly to nursing and patient data.

Protecting Sensitive Data

A significant change set out in the GDPR is that sensitive data will be subject to greater protections. ‘Sensitive data’ includes data concerning health, genetic data and biometric data. Organisations which handle this kind of data will need to appoint a DPO (Data Protection Officer) whose role it is to ensure compliance with the GDPR and advise employees what their responsibilities are.

If you are working as a nurse, it’s important that you find out who your DPO is, as this person will be your go-to for all matters regarding patient data. It’s also important to note that the fines for non-compliance have increased significantly. Organisations found to be non-compliant now face a maximum fine of 20 million Euros (or £18 million).

Subject Access

Another significant change is that patients now have the right to request to see the information an organisation holds on them (this is known as subject access). Patients also have the right to see whether it is being used legally and to see any supplementary data. Requests of this kind can be made to anyone within the organisation and can be submitted in verbal or written form. Requests must be dealt with within a month. If you’re working as a nurse, it’s important that you inform yourself of your organisation’s procedures for recording and responding to subject access requests.

Use of Technology

One factor that complicates the issue of nursing and patient data is the increased use of bedside digital technology in many hospitals around the UK. South Teeside Hospitals NHS Foundation, for example, is taking advantage of the NHS Technology Fund, launched in 2012, to invest £1.4 million into technology for clinical staff, the bulk of which was put towards buying Ipads and other mobile devices.

Mobile devices can be used to record and update patient data on the spot, without having to rely on the use of patient charts. The advantage of this is that doctors and nurses are able to view patient stats and data in real time, making ward rounds more efficient. But in order for this to be effective, it’s imperative that rigorous procedures are put in place to govern how this data is stored and who it is seen by.

Nursing and Patient Data That Works For You

If you’re currently working in the NHS, the new GDPR rules add an extra dimension to the complexities of nursing and patient data. There’s no doubt that nursing is a challenge, particularly in the current climate. That said, it can still be an incredibly rewarding career. If you’re currently exploring more flexible ways of working, we may be able to help. EBPCOOH is recruiting to fill nursing positions in a way that ensures greater autonomy and work-life balance. If you’d like to find out more, you can get in touch here.