The PRSB speaks to Lucy Butler

This month the PRSB speaks to Lucy Butler, who has just joined our advisory board and is the director for children’s services at Oxfordshire County Council. She talks to us about the challenges of information sharing in the social care sector, and the data that professionals need to receive to provide better care.

What are the biggest challenges for information sharing in the social care sector?

Information sharing between health and social care can be a challenge. One of the key issues for us is agreeing an information sharing protocol for multi-agency safeguarding hubs (where lots of professionals share data on a person’s care). People believe that for information to be shared, it must meet a threshold of risk.

How do confidentiality issues impact information sharing?

Due to confidentiality and data protection, people can be very cautious about information sharing. However, this can mean that social workers do not have all the information they need on a person’s medical history and family situation. A typical family may be involved with various professionals, for example police, social services, school nurses etc. All of these people will hold a different piece of the jigsaw – information that needs to be safely shared between professionals. For example, in addition to getting a full picture of a child’s medical history, social workers also need information on the parents, such as any mental health conditions, recent family bereavements or substance abuse problems.

How do you think these issues can be resolved?

At the moment, we have a convoluted way of information sharing, with many different records on file. We want to be sure we have access to the right information, such as diagnoses and medications, so we can ensure we give the right response. The PRSB is trying to break down organisational barriers, which is a positive step for health and social care. The members and bodies involved in the development of standards have a patient and person-centred approach. We want to know that we’re sharing information that really helps the person and will achieve better outcomes for their care. The PRSB is pushing boundaries and looking at innovative ways to achieve a cultural shift towards the adoption of standards as the norm.

What aspects of information sharing do you believe will be most important for social care?

I also believe the patient passport could be a powerful tool if it were used in hospitals. It’s a really simple idea but it could be very effective. As part of my role here, I’ll be championing the idea of the patient passport.

Lucy Butler, director for children’s services at Oxfordshire County Council


Improving care for people is core to the PRSB’s purpose and approach and being person centred is our top strategic priority. Patient passports were discussed at our most recent Advisory Board meeting and the PRSB sees it as vital that the passport is incorporated into the patient record. Across the country hundreds of examples of good practice are emerging, particularly in Northern Ireland.

What is a patient passport?
A patient passport provides important information for doctors, nurses and other health and care professionals in an easy to read form, so that patients with learning disabilities using health and care services have a positive experience of care.

How is information gathered?
Information recorded on the passport must be collected in consultation with the service user, their family and any other carers and professionals involved in caring and supporting them, whether this is at home, at day services, at work, at college or at hospital.

What about consent?
If the patient has a passport completed prior an admission to hospital, for example, staff can be confident that the patient’s consent has been obtained or that the care is judged to be in the person’s best interest. When and how should the patient passport be used?

The patient passport should be taken with the service user when -:
• they are admitted to hospital for any planned or unplanned assessment and treatment
• attending outpatients appointments
• any other health or care appointments.

The patient passport should move with the service user and any necessary updates should be written on the passport by clinicians and professionals.