Bill risks patients’ confidentiality, warn Doctors

The BMA has voiced fears that the age of consortia GPs following the Health and Social Care Bill could threaten the confidentiality of patient records.

Ethics department head Dr Vivienne Nathanson claimed the Government was putting its desire for access to information ahead of respect for patient confidentiality.

She warned: ‘The Health Bill proposes that a number of bodies – including the Secretary of State for Health, the newly formed Commissioning Board and the NHS Information Centre – should be given the right to obtain and disclose confidential patient information for any number of unspecified purposes.

‘There is very little reference to rules on patient confidentiality that would ensure patients are asked before their information is shared or guarantee that the patient’s identity will not be revealed. Fears that their data may be shared with others may result in patients withholding important information; this may not only affect their own health but has implications for the wider health service’.

The union’s medical ethics committee chair Dr Tony Calland said it was lobbying for a change in the Bill so that patients had to give explicit consent for any disclosure of information ‘unless the information has been properly anonymised, pseudonymised or there is an overriding public interest’.