The government has dropped its controversial plans to make it easier to share personal data across Whitehall departments.

Justice Secretary Jack Straw has announced that he has asked for clause 152 of the Coroners and Justice Bill to be withdrawn from the legislation to allow for further consultation.

The clause prompted widespread concern among privacy bodies and last week led eight healthcare organisations to write to Straw to demand that medical records be excluded.

A statement issued by the Ministry of Justice said the government was clear that there were many benefits to data-sharing.

However, it said: “Parliamentary and public scrutiny has thrown up justifiable concerns that the clause as drafted was very wide and there were concerns that the powers as drafted could be misused.”

The statement added: “We have always said that there’s a balance to be struck between providing the positive elements of data-sharing and ensuring that sensitive data such as medical records is protected and, importantly, that people trust it is protected.”

The Ministry of Justice said it will now work with privacy groups and individuals with an interest in data-sharing to take forward the proposals of a review chaired by information commissioner Richard Thomas and Wellcome Trust director Dr Mark Walport on data sharing across government.

This suggested that it might be acceptable to assume implied consent for data sharing when it would be in an individuals’ interest, but only if bodies like the NHS were more transparent and open about what they would do with information.  

Last week, the British Medical Association and seven other health organisations said they had “grave concerns” about the data-sharing proposals in the Bill as it stood.

It claimed they could corrode the doctor-patient relationship and have a disastrous impact on patients’ health and healthcare.