Cundy revives confidentiality concerns
GP IT expert Dr Paul Cundy has resurrected concerns about threats to patient confidentiality in the draft Health and Social Care Bill.
Dr Cundy, who is joint chairman of the BMA and RCGP's joint IT committee, has written an open letter outlining his concerns about the impact of the new legislation.
The letter says the notion of patient confidentiality underpins the doctor patient relationship and this trust is threatened by the draft bill currently before the House of Lords.
The Bill establishes the Information Centre as a corporate body and requires doctors to release "any information" that the centre requests of them.
“Doctors will find themselves in an impossible position, on the one hand expected by all to protect patient's information and on the other, subject to a legal requirement to breach that trust,” Dr Cundy's letter says.
“The media focus on GP commissioning has allowed this violation to pass as yet largely unnoticed and unchecked; it is my hope that with the bill now before the Lords corrective action will be taken.”
The Royal College of GPs and British Medical Association BMA raised similar concerns earlier in the year. However, in September, the BMA said it had accepted concessions offered by the Department of Health on the information provisions in the bill.
These included a restriction on the number of bodies that would be able to mandate the NHS Information Centre to collect data from providers and a limit on when such powers could be applied.
Dr Cundy told eHealth Insider that the patient confidentiality issue had dropped “way down the agenda” and his letter was intended to “bring it up again."
He said the Summary Care Record debate showed the issue of confidentiality was very important to the public.
Patients wanted GPs to act as guardians of their information and would be “horrified” to learn that the Bill gave powers to the health secretary to demand information from their doctor.
He said current law - such as the Data Protection Act and a European Union directive - empowered GPs to protect the information that they held on their patients, and attempts by the government to get information in the past had “faltered and failed."
The government appeared to have decided that if it wrote a new law it would “trounce” all the others and GPs would have to give the information up, said Dr Cundy.
“If this new law goes through it will be difficult to know where GPs stand,” he said. “It’s going to be a very very messy situation.”
Former NHS chief information officer Christine Connelly told a Westminster Health Forum meeting earlier this year that the Bill was only intended to give the new organisations being created by the Bill the powers that existing organisations have.
Last updated: 15 November 2011 09:47
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