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Data sharing confidentiality risk

3rd March 2009

Leaders of a number of key medical groups fear that moves to relax data sharing rules could damage patient confidentiality.

medicalrecords

The heads of the eight organisations have written to Justice Secretary Jack Straw urging a re-think on the Coroners and Justice Bill which is currently working its way through parliament.

The heads of the Royal College of Surgeons, Royal College of Nursing, Medical Defence Union, Medical Protection Society, Royal College of GPs, Faculty of Public Health and Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and the British Medical Association are all signatories of the letter.

The Bill contains measures to introduce information sharing orders that would remove data protection restrictions which ministers say will improve delivery of service.

However, medical experts believe it would undermine patient confidentiality and trust.

BMA chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum said: "The doctor-patient relationship is based on trust. If patients cannot be 100% sure that their records are confidential, they will inevitably the reluctant to share vital information with their doctor."

Opposition MPs are also opposed to the data sharing proposal.

The Ministry of Justice said the plan is part of moves "to create services that improve people lives and are simple and easy for them to use."

A spokesman added: "One of the main objectives of the information sharing gateway is to assist with the delivery of improved services for the 21st century such as the digital switchover, warm homes and free school meals."

However, the department has also said that in the light of the concerns raised, it may be willing to reconsider.

 

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