Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust streamlines its Information Governance processes using the ISG

Developing a ‘next generation’ framework capable of supporting information sharing across all sectors

Posted by Kevin Whittaker on 22/11/2016

The Challenge

We are the largest provider of NHS services across the County of Cumbria. Around 4000 staff operate 60 community and mental health services from over 20 main sites and many other premises shared with other health or community services such as GP surgeries.

We regularly share information with over 100 partners and recognise the clinical benefits of doing so. However, managing the flow of information between organisations through paper information sharing agreements is time consuming, inflexible, confusing, difficult to track and sign off.

The approach the Trust had was not well suited to interoperable/ integrated systems either.

Recognising this, Cumbria Partnership Foundation Trust along with other organisations in Lancashire & Cumbria, committed to improve and modernise the administration and risk assessment of information sharing in the public sector by developing a ‘next generation’ framework that was capable of supporting information sharing across all sectors.

This framework would become the Information Sharing Gateway (ISG).

The Solution

"Trust" is an important factor in information sharing and this starts with the assurance level of each organisation that we want to share information with. Sight of a partner’s approach to Information Governance through common standards such as ICO registration, IG Tool Kit or Public Service Network compliance etc, supplemented by common terms of reference enables that trust.

CPFT started using the ISG in 2015. The system consolidates key information about sharing in an accessible and transparent way that is Data Protection Act compliant. Assurance levels of sharing partners are instantly available, common practice is established by signing up to a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), data flows can be recorded, risk assessed and subsequently signed-off by 'accountable officers'.

The ISG has made it possible to establish the IG assurance level of our partners at a glance. We have agreed common rules of information sharing and are able to map data flows all in one place with quick and easy sign-off by the right people.

Spreadsheets, paper agreements, SharePoint directories and scanned signature sheets are all, thankfully, history.

Tony Atkinson, Information Sharing and Privacy Coordinator

The ISG keeps all sharing information in one place supporting efficient and effective management of data sharing.


CPFT provide IG support to Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group. To encourage sign-up to the ISG, a sponsorship model was developed that supports smaller organisations membership in the ISG. Although there is a significant administration overhead in maintaining the assurance levels and contact details for authorised officers in these sponsored partners, the benefits of doing so are now starting to benefit others that create data flows.

The ISG now has a membership of over 800 organisations – this is growing daily. CPFT and Cumbria CCG have established sharing with over 100 partners both locally and nationally through approximately 70 data flows. We have focused on established sharing arrangements such as viewing GP practice patient records through EMIS to EMIS sharing and Healthcare Gateway Medical Interoperability Gateway (MIG) and the service that our PRIMIS team provide to GP practices.

The Future

CPFT will continue to use the ISG to record its current data shares and encourage other organisations to sign-up to the gateway.

We are actively engaged in identifying and recording internal and external data flows with stakeholders from across the Trust. This robust plan will identify new external organisations and data flows that will be recorded in the ISG.

As our use of the gateway matures we plan to develop the use of the inbuilt risk management functionality to reduce risks associated with sharing.