Reducing the disclosure of confidential patient information - guidance for CAG applicants and potential applicants

This HRA online tool is designed to be used in conjunction with other Confidentiality Advisory Group (CAG) guidance.

When considering whether a dataset can be described as identifiable or anonymised it is helpful to think of a sliding scale. Where on the scale a dataset sits is determined by the risks of identifying individuals and how, where possible, the proposed technical and security measures will mitigate the risk that they may be identified. In an effectively anonymised dataset, the possibility of identifying an individual should be minimal. As the possibility of identification increases, appropriate technical and security controls need to be implemented to protect potentially identifiable datasets.

This tool is intended to help you consider ways in which you may reduce the extent of confidential patient information and thereby potentially mitigate the risk of identifying anyone from the information in the dataset itself, or when combined with other information available to the people who hold the dataset.

The tool should be consulted prior to submitting an application or annual review to CAG to access confidential patient information without consent (for both research and non-research purposes), it may be possible to reduce the possibility of identification of individuals to an extent where an application to CAG may not be required (i.e. dataset becomes effectively anonymised). You should consider carefully whether the technical approach, procedures and security arrangements do in fact reduce the risk of identifying individuals to a level where there is no breach of confidentiality.

The tool is in three modular sections:

  • Module 1 - Do you need confidential patient information?
  • Module 2 - Are there methods that can reduce the extent of confidential patient information required?
  • Module 3 - Evidence/considerations when making an application or providing an annual review.

You will be led to those sections that apply to you. You may not need to visit Module 3. Please read the sections carefully to see whether or not they apply to your application.

We are consulting on the usefulness of this tool. Please help us improve it by completing this short survey.

> Begin Module 1 - Do you need confidential patient information?