Patient data-sharing rules slammed

New report examining the Memorandum of Understanding into data sharing between NHS Digital, the Department of Health and Social Carre and the Home Office has said that data held for purposes of health and care should only be shared for ‘law enforcement purposes in the case of serious crime’

A new report into the Memorandum of understanding on data-sharing between NHS Digital and the Home Office, says that data held for the purposes of health and care ‘should only be shared for law enforcement purposes in the case of serious crime’.

This, the report says, is not only in line with GMC and NHS Codes but also NHS digital’s own guidance on confidentiality.

In its conclusions and recommendations, the report further said that NHS digital has not been ‘sufficiently robust’ in protecting the interest of patients or maintaining the necessary degree of independence from government.

Responding to the Health Select Committee’s report, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “The Home Office is displaying a blatant disregard for the trusted and vital GP-patient relationship, and its casual approach to confidential patient data risks alienating highly vulnerable patients.

“It is treating GP patient data like the Yellow Pages, and we are calling on NHS Digital to take urgent measures to suspend the agreement that is allowing them to do so.

“The scale of the examples we’re hearing about are becoming increasingly alarming – and if all are true, paint a terrible picture. We fully agree with the Health Select Committee that any harm being inadvertently caused must be quantified, explicitly discussed and rigorously evaluated before any data-sharing agreement can continue.

“Data can be incredibly useful for medical research and planning purposes and healthcare professionals can inspire trust in our patients about how it is used. But we need to be reassured that the data we are guardians of – NHS patient records – will be used morally, safely and responsibly.”

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