We all share the same concerns about the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The need for public bodies and health practitioners to be able to communicate directly with people when dealing with this type of health emergency has never been greater.
Data protection and electronic communication laws do not stop Government, the NHS or any other health professionals from sending public health messages to people, either by phone, text or email as these messages are not direct marketing. Nor does it stop them using the latest technology to facilitate safe and speedy consultations and diagnoses. Public bodies may require additional collection and sharing of personal data to protect against serious threats to public health.
The ICO is a reasonable and pragmatic regulator, one that does not operate in isolation from matters of serious public concern. Regarding compliance with data protection, we will take into account the compelling public interest in the current health emergency.
The safety and security of the public remains our primary concern. The ICO and our colleagues in the public sector have this at the forefront of our minds at this time. We are here to help our colleagues on the frontline. We can offer advice to make sure the law around data protection and direct marketing is clear. Information is available on our website or you can call our helpline on 0303 123 1113.
I would like to provide an
update on how the Care Inspectorate is responding through our contingency
planning to the COVID-19 situation.
I’d also like to thank all
providers, our social care workforce, and public servants for the work you are
doing to protect vulnerable people. The coming weeks and months are going to
test us all and I want you to know we are fully committed
to supporting all those who provide health and social care services, in order
to keep people safe, during this global health emergency. In the Care
Inspectorate we have a varied and experienced group
of staff and we will be considering how they can help, advise and guide
services directly in coming days and weeks.
Over the past week we have taken
the decision to scale down our inspections during this time and put in place
arrangements which will involve gathering information, assessing the level of
risk in care services and establishing assurances about the quality of care
people experience. We are only making visits to services when absolutely
necessary. We are also operating in a similar manner around complaints.
At this extremely challenging time, we will support
services in their need to apply flexibility and judgement around staffing to
ensure the safety and wellbeing of people experiencing care. We recognise that
services will need to be creative and make use of a wider range of resources,
including potentially staff from other public services and volunteers.
Over recent days, we have issued
guidance for all registered care services including early learning and
childcare services informing them of the changes we have introduced. I would
encourage you to work with your staff to consider what this means in your
specific setting and the potential impact it will have on your work.
Guidance and information
We have created a coronavirus
COVID-19 page on our website, which we are updating continuously. Currently, it
includes information on notifications, staffing levels and registration.
We are also providing regular
updates on Twitter, Facebook and in our Provider Updates newsletter, which we
are currently sending to all registered care services along with subscribers. I
encourage you to follow us on social media and to subscribe to our free
e-newsletters service, ensuring you tick the Provider Updates preference when
you do so here: http://bit.ly/CI-subscribe
Getting in touch
If you have any concerns, or
need any additional guidance, I would ask you to get in touch with your Care
Inspectorate contact, who will be able to help you in the usual way. In line
with wider public health developments, we will continue to provide updates on
our activities at www.careinspectorate.com,
our social media channels, and through our customer contact centre, on 0345 600
We will review our activity in the weeks ahead and we will continue to support you and people who experience care.