Remembering Fiona Caldicott on International Women’s Day

08 March 2021

On International Women’s Day GGI remembers Dame Fiona Caldicott, the recipient of our 2019 Good Governance Award, who sadly died last month.

Dame Fiona was the UK’s first statutory National Data Guardian for health and social care. Following her appointment in 2014, she helped to encourage public trust in the protection and appropriate usage of personal confidential data, specifically health and care information.

She chaired the National Information Governance Board (NIGB) for Health and Social Care (2011 to 2013), which was responsible for a range of advisory functions relating to information governance such as ensuring the confidentiality of patient information. She also led an independent review of information governance from 2012 to 2013. And, as chair of the Caldicott Committee which focused patient identifiable data in the NHS, she spearheaded the creation of ‘Caldicott Guardians’ in all provider organisation in the NHS.

After working initially in general practice, Dame Fiona became a psychiatrist and psychotherapist, holding various senior clinical and teaching posts. She became the first woman president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists from 1993 to 1996 and was chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges from 1995 to 1996. She was Principal of Somerville College, Oxford, from 1996 to 2010 while also serving as Pro Vice-Chancellor, Personnel and Equal Opportunities, of the University of Oxford and chairing its personnel committee.

On top of her many professional accomplishments, Dame Fiona was very highly regarded by those who knew and worked with her. In a moving tribute on behalf of the National Data Guardian team following her death last month, John Carvel wrote: “She led us with unswerving integrity, modesty and a commitment to doing her best for patients and service users. Her name is well known across our sector and beyond, but we had the added privilege of knowing her personally and holding dear the thoughtful, compassionate person behind the public profile.”

As we move into the new era of integrated care, it’s worth reminding ourselves of the words Dame Fiona wrote in a blog post last December: “As we … think about what data use should look like in a post-coronavirus landscape, we must continue to listen to the public. We have already begun to see emerging evidence, which suggests that people are becoming more knowledgeable about the importance of health and care data, and more accepting of its use. We now have an opportunity to build on this growing awareness. And at this time, transparency will be key to providing the reassurance that earns confidence. We must make a concerted effort to engage with the people whose data we hold before making important decisions about it.”

GGI’s chief executive, Andrew Corbett-Nolan said: “Dame Fiona was a true champion for patients and the public. Her contribution aligned completely with our mission of helping to create a better, fairer world. That’s why we presented her with the Good Governance Award and it’s also why there can be no one better to celebrate on International Women’s Day.”