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Greater protection of patient records needed

1st July 2010

Doctors have warned that greater protection measures are required to stop NHS staff accessing patient records without a legitimate reason.

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The warning comes as more patient records are being uploaded to an electronic database under the emergency summary care scheme.

But speaking to the British Medical Association conference in Brighton, Lanarkshire GP Dr Mary Church said: "The ease with which our patients' information can now be shared challenges us to come up with ways of protecting information they have shared with us."

The conference was told that many hospitals were using generic passwords so that temporary staff could access electronic records and that it was not unusual for passwords to be openly displayed on the side of computer screens.

The wider concern was that it was not possible to keep track of who was looking at the documents to make sure there was no improper use of the information.

Dr Church added: “If we are to use electronic patient records then it is essential that we know who has looked at which records and when so we can ensure only appropriate access.

“To do this you need to have clear ways to give staff a unique electronic identity as soon as they start work and which can be removed when they leave their post.”

She said a proper identity and access management system needed to be in place.

However, Sabrina Talukdar from the junior doctors committee, said she felt that some of the measures proposed were "unnecessarily overly restrictive".

 

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