The Importance of Information Governance

I wasn’t planning on writing another post until the new year, but recent events compel me to do so. One of the modules I was studying this term was Information Management and Policy. It got me thinking about the processes and strategies which underpin good information governance; some of these are legal, such as Data Protection and Freedom of Information, whereas others are organisation-led and are concerned with how an organisation manages its information.

One of the areas which has been at the forefront of Information Governance has been the NHS. This isn’t surprising, as it is perhaps one of the most information-rich/heavy organisations in world and the sensitive nature of the information it holds necessitates good management.

Last Sunday my daughter was due to go to our local hospital to have minor surgery. My wife and I had been waiting many months for the operation to be scheduled, and although we were both a little anxious, we were relieved that our daughter’s issues would soon be resolved. When we received the letter confirming the operation date, another page was inserted with the names, dates of birth and details of operations of other patients scheduled for the same day. To give out such information, albeit accidentally, is pretty outrageous, yet when my wife phoned up the hospital to inform them of the error, the person’s response was basically, ‘well that was nothing to do with me’.

Two days before the operation my wife was rung to be told that our daughter’s operation would have to be cancelled as her notes had been lost. Apparently they had been sent to a different hospital within the same NHS trust. The notes were recovered, but we then had to wait a further four days for the operation to be rescheduled. Concerningly, when I mentioned on Twitter that the notes had been mislaid, the response I got was ‘typical’, ‘sounds par for the course’. It’s not a scientific sample, but it does raise issues of how commonplace these sorts of incidents are.

The most important thing is that my daughter is now on the mend, but the whole experience has shaken my faith a little. The security of patients’ records needs to be absolute. Protocols governing records need to be explicit and followed. I never expected that what I’d studied would so directly impact upon me and my family. It’s confirmed for me that Information Science is a necessary discipline in our modern world, and that Information Governance and Management are issues that need to be understood more broadly throughout society.


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