The Digital Ethics Charter

Context

All professionals working in health and social care must ensure that they comply with all relevant legislation and good practice to protect individuals’ personal data and their wider human rights. In addition, professionals working with data need to be aware of how legislation, policy and practice relevant to clinicians will impact on their involvement in improving how care is designed and delivered. Relevant law and policy includes:

  • Data Protection Act 2018 and the Information Commissioner’s Office’ guidance.
  • Human Rights Act 1998, including peoples’ right to life (Article 2), right to not be subject to inhuman or degrading treatment (Article 3), right to respect for private and family life, and right to lawful data confidentiality (Article 8).
  • Equalities Act 2010, including the public sector duty to eliminate unlawful discrimination, advance equality of opportunities and foster good relations.
  • Duty of candour (clinicians’ responsibilities to identify and disclose errors in care) and employers’ whistleblowing policies.
  • General Data Protection Regulation (EU) 2016.
  • Seven Caldicott Principles for using confidential information.
  • Professional codes of conduct.
  • The Common Law of Confidentiality.

Our opportunity

Digital transformation - and the adoption of newer technological capabilities - present health and care sector leaders, commissioners and providers with a golden opportunity to transform the way in which services are provided. Digital transformation can help empower people to look after their own and their families’ health and wellbeing, and to have their voices heard. It can give professionals in the NHS, local authorities and the voluntary sector the chance to truly collaborate and deliver services seamlessly across organisational boundaries. It allows organisations to analyse and share data to understand the reasons for health inequalities. Also it helps change the way services are commissioned and provided to benefit individuals and communities. We have achieved much in this area to date – and now we have an opportunity to do even more.

Our ambition

We want to create an environment where technology enables as well as enhances the provision of health and care services within our system. Today’s health and care system has access to some innovative data programmes, apps, clinical decision support tools and electronic health records. In parallel, we are seeing advancements in technology and, in particular, artificial intelligence techniques. Artificial intelligence is being used on this data to develop insights and tools to help improve operational efficiency. This will lead to the provision of even better and safer care.

All of these techniques are reliant on the use of data held within health and social care organisations, which must be gathered, stored and shared responsibly. Data-driven technologies must be harnessed in a safe, evidenced and transparent way. As such, an agreed approach is needed to ensure digital professionals operate legally and ethically. We have therefore developed a Digital Ethics Charter, a set of common principles that digital professionals can adhere to which best promote the rights of people and the organisations they serve. This is a voluntary charter to promote best practice, and does not affect any other legal, contractual, or employment obligations.

Principles

Think Ethics thought bubble

Think Ethics

Consider the implications on individuals and society of any given action or system.

Build Ethics wall and trowel

Build Ethics

Enshrine ethical use of data within any development in the same way we do for privacy.

Explain Ethics speech bubble

Explain Ethics

Accept the responsibility of sharing ethical thoughts, considerations and concerns with those around to create learning safe spaces.

Share Ethics relationship network

Share Ethics

Be transparent in the sharing of ethical concerns or findings with the broader public sector supply chain and the public.

Pledge

AS A PROFESSIONAL WHO WORKS WITH DATA:

  1. I will always use data and digital technology to benefit the health and wellbeing and the rights of the people and families in the population I serve.
  2. I will be honest and open, ensuring people and organisations know what data I am holding about them, how, and why, to protect their confidentiality, in accordance with data protection legislation and good practice. I will protect the security of people’s and organisations’ sensitive data.
  3. I will draw on and share existing tools and best practice when developing innovations in data and digital technology.
  4. I will ensure that when I select, analyse or report on data, it is done in a fair, non-judgemental and non-discriminatory way. I will promote equality and positive relationships in accordance with the Equality Act.
  5. I will ensure that where I am involved in developing or operating data models or digital technology, I will identify and report any potentially harmful impact on the people or communities I serve.
  6. I will contribute to the integration of health and care systems. I recognise the importance of data in helping agencies to work together to share information safely to identify need, target resources, and monitor effectiveness, both now and when predicting future demand.
  7. I will collaborate with colleagues, partner organisations, people and communities to promote ways for data and digital technologies to improve people’s health and wellbeing. I will overcome silo working to achieve true partnership working.
  8. I will continue to develop my own skills, and the skills of others, to enable me to be as effective as possible in improving the health and wellbeing of the population.
  9. I will disclose any conflicts of interest or barriers that may affect my professional integrity or objectivity.
  10. I will attend to my own health and wellbeing, and seek support with any challenges within my work, to ensure that I am an effective professional.

Read online as a PDF or download the charter to your device.