I thought I’d seen it all when NHS Choices boasted about putting CCTV images of NHS waiting rooms live on the internet, or when I read the NHS openly stating that they are “making appropriate searches” into patients personal twitter streams to gleam information that they then can then “raise” during consultations, but this BBC News article by Dominic Hughes surely confirms the Department of Health hasn’t even a basic grasp of the need to collaborate with Doctors to appreciate the issues surrounding patient privacy and confidentiality.
On the one hand:
“The British Medical Association (the professional medical association and trade union for Doctors) says there are “serious concerns” about clauses in the bill on information sharing in a reshaped NHS. The BMA says it fails to guarantee patients’ identities are kept secret. The BMA, which fears that patients might withhold important information because of confidentiality issues, has written to Minister of State Simon Burns. The letter says the bill gives very broad powers to a number of bodies, including the Secretary of State, the Commissioning Board and the NHS Information Centre “to obtain and disclose confidential patient information for any number of unspecified health purposes. As currently drafted, there is very little in the Bill relating to confidentiality and information governance controls, which are so fundamental to medical practice and the trust-based relationship between doctors and patients”. By failing to put in place proper safeguards, the government is potentially removing the control doctors and, most importantly, patients have over their confidential data.
“In the course of consultation and treatment, patients will often disclose highly sensitive information to their doctors, information that can be vital to ensuring the optimal provision of appropriate care and treatment.. …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 to the wider health service… …By failing to put in place proper safeguards, the government is potentially removing the control doctors and, most importantly, patients have over their confidential data. This conflicts with government promises that patients will be given greater control over their medical records” Dr Vivienne Nathanson Head of Science & Ethics, BMA
The BMA is proposing a number of amendments to the bill and their concerns are echoed by the Patients Association.
On the other:
A Department of Health spokesman said the government’s modernisation plans would allow patients to see where unacceptable NHS services were being provided and should drive up the quality of care. “However, there is no question of the Health and Social Care Bill undermining the confidentiality of patients and their clinicians. The bill does not change any of the existing legal safeguards, which are set out in the Data Protection Act and the common law of confidence. “We are happy to work with the BMA to understand their concerns.”