Support for medical data use28th April 2006
A study published on bmj.com finds that the British public supports the use of personal medical data, without consent, for public health research. It also found that most people also think that cancer registration should be required by law.
Since the introduction of the Data Protection Act, research has been disrupted because of concern about the ethics and legality of using identifiable data from patient records. Researchers set out to assess the views of the British public on the acceptability of personal information being used by the National Cancer Registry for public health purposes.
The NHS code of practice on confidentiality states that it cannot be assumed that patients are happy for information about them to be used for purposes other than direct care, however there is currently little evidence on public opinion, says the BMJ.
A total of 2,872 people answered a series of questions on cancer registration and personal privacy in face-to-face interviews. 81% of respondents also said that they would support a law making cancer registration statutory.
88% said that they had no objection to their postcode being held, 81% said that holding details of their name and address in the registry would not be an invasion of their privacy, and 87% said that being invited to take part in a research study on the basis of their inclusion in the registry would not be an invasion of privacy.
Only 2% considered all of these to be an invasion of privacy, and 72% were happy with all three, said the researchers.
The most likely groups to be concerned about invasion of privacy were those whose ethnicity was not â€śwhite British,â€? those living in rented accommodation and those of lower socioeconomic status.
The authors say that these results show that the British public supports the use of identifiable cancer data without consent for public health research, provided the information is kept confidential and secure.
The BMJ adds that research across the European Union has also shown that doctors and medical services are highly trusted with regard to their use of individualsâ€™ personal information.
The researchers conclude that their findings provide a direct insight into public views and suggest strong support for the confidential use of identifiable data on cancer for public health purposes and for statutory cancer registration.
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Title: Support for medical data use
Author: Sue Knights
Article Id: 257
Date Added: 28th Apr 2006