About us

The National Data Guardian (NDG) advises and challenges the health and care system to help ensure that citizens’ confidential information is safeguarded securely and used properly.

The role of the National Data Guardian

The National Data Guardian (NDG) role was created in November 2014 to be an independent champion for patients and the public when it comes to matters of their confidential health and care information. The purpose of the role is to make sure that people’s information is kept safe and confidential, and that it is shared when appropriate to achieve better outcomes for patients. The NDG does so by offering advice, guidance and encouragement to the health and care system.

In December 2018 the Health and Social Care (National Data Guardian) Act 2018 was passed. The law placed the NDG role on a statutory footing and granted it the power to issue official guidance about the processing of health and adult social care data in England. Public bodies such as hospitals, GPs, care homes, planners and commissioners of services will have to take note of guidance that is relevant to them. So will organisations such as private companies or charities which are delivering services for the NHS or publicly funded adult social care. The NDG may also provide more informal advice about the processing of health and adult social care data in England.

Dr Nicola Byrne is the current National Data Guardian, having been appointed in March 2021.

Guiding principles

The NDG wants to build trust in the use of data across health and social care and is guided by these 3 main principles:

  • encouraging clinicians and other members of care teams to share information to enable joined-up care, better diagnosis and treatment

  • ensuring there are no surprises to the citizen about how their health and care data is being used and that they are given a choice about this

  • building a dialogue with the public about how we all wish information to be used, to include a range of voices including commercial companies providing drugs and services to the NHS, researchers discovering new connections that transform treatments, and those managing the services

Who we are

Although sponsored by the Department of Health and Social Care, the NDG operates independently, representing the interests of patients and the public. The NDG also appoints an independent group of experts – the NDG Panel – to advise and support this work.

NDG Panel members:

  • Dr Joanne Bailey (former GP, tribunal member (Social Entitlements), clinical ethics tutor)
  • John Carvel (Freelance writer formerly Social Affairs Editor of The Guardian)
  • Andrew Hughes (Local Government Association’s Director of Health and Wellbeing Systems Improvement)
  • Mr Adrian Marchbank (Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon, University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust)
  • Rakesh Marwaha (former commissioning accountable officer)
  • Maisie McKenzie (mental health first aid associate and trainer with Mental Health First Aid England)
  • Eileen Phillips (freelance writer, communications consultant)
  • Dr Geoff Schrecker (former GP, PRSB clinical adviser and specialist member of IGARD)
  • Professor Martin Severs (Chief Medical Officer at Zesty; former Caldicott Guardian / Lead Clinician, NHS Digital)
  • Rob Shaw (Managing Director at Mercury Technology Ltd; former Deputy Chief Executive, NHS Digital)
  • David Watts (Director of Adult Services (DASS) North Northamptonshire Council)
  • Dr James Wilson (senior lecturer in the Department of Philosophy at University College London)

There is more information about the backgrounds and experience of NDG Panel members in NDG Panel biographies (PDF, 154KB, 4 pages)

The panel meets 6 times a year. You can find minutes of the NDG Panel on our publications page.

The Caldicott Principles

The National Data Guardian is responsible for maintaining the Caldicott Principles. The principles, first introduced in 1997, are a set of good practice guidelines applied widely across the field of health and social care information governance to ensure that people’s data is kept safe and used appropriately. Caldicott Guardians support the upholding of these principles at an organisational level.

UK Caldicott Guardian Council

The UK Caldicott Guardian Council (UKCGC) is a sub-group of the National Data Guardian Panel. The chair of the council sits on the NDG Panel.

The council is the national body for Caldicott Guardians, who are responsible for protecting the confidentiality of people’s health and care information and making sure it is used properly. All NHS organisations and local authorities that provide social services must have a Caldicott Guardian.

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