Concern police will be able to ‘strong-arm’ NHS to hand over patient data

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Police forces will be able to hand over confidential patient data to NHS bodies under planned laws, which have drawn fury from doctors’ groups and the UK’s medical watchdog.

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Ministers are planning new powers for police forces that would “separate” the existing duty of confidentiality that applies to patient data held by the NHS and would instead require data to be handed over to NHS organisations, police say They need to stop the serious violence.

Last week, England’s national data guardian, Dr Nicola Byrne reported Granthshala He had serious concerns about the effect of the legislation running through Parliament, and warned that the case for introducing wider powers had not been made.


Now the UK’s medical watchdog, the General Medical Council (GMC), has also criticized the new law, whose proposals include the Police, Crime and Punishment Bill, warning that it fails to protect patients’ sensitive information. and may disproportionately affect some groups. and exacerbates the inequalities.

Human rights group Liberty said the proposed law is broad enough that police forces would be able to obtain “robust information” from the NHS and other bodies, and could include information about people’s health, religious beliefs and political ties. It added: “Overall, these provisions may give rise to significant and serious violations of the data rights of individuals.”

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Under the proposed law, which will be debated in the House of Lords in the coming weeks, local health boards would be legally required to provide confidential patient information when requested by police. The bill clearly sets aside the existing common law duty of confidentiality.

The aim is to prevent serious violence, but there is already a provision to allow the sharing of patient information with the police where the public interest requires, such as the threat of violence or the prevention of a crime. The bill does not specify in detail what kind of data can be assigned.

Under the proposed new law, the police will have the power to demand information, whether or not the NHS considers it to be in the public interest.

Professor Colin Melville, Medical Director of GMC Granthshala: “We are concerned that the bill does not protect patients’ sensitive health information and risks undermining the trust at the heart of the doctor-patient relationship. We also share the concerns of others that the erosion of trust is disparaging some communities.” and deepen social inequalities.

GMC has raised its objections to the Home Office, which has said the law would still require organizations to meet data protection regulations before sharing any information.

But the doctors’ union, the British Medical Association (BMA), told a briefing for members of the House of Lords that it would not provide adequate protection.

It said that health information was “given a special legal status, in addition to and beyond the Data Protection Act, as a common law duty of confidentiality”, which was upheld by several court cases.

It added that the bill would “override the duty of medical confidentiality, which legally requires identifiable health information about individuals to be shared with the police”, adding: “We believe that confidentiality Setting aside the duty of, requiring confidential information to be regularly given to the police when requested, would have a highly detrimental effect on the relationship of trust between doctors and their patients. With the removal of long-established protections for confidential health information, it could mean that many patients are reluctant or intimidated to consult doctors or share information.”

Dr Claudia Paoloni, president of the Association of Hospital Consultants and Specialists, said the new law would “seriously undermine” existing trust-based relationships with patients, and create barriers to seeking care: “We have significant concerns about whether What appears to be an arrogant approach to long-held principles, without clear objectives, and which is likely to have unintended consequences. Until these concerns about individual patient privacy can be satisfactorily answered, we believe that such powers should be removed from the Bill.

“Aside from the most serious offences, which are already covered by precedent on disclosure based on the public interest, it is not immediately clear how the laws will be used to release medical records of individuals.”

The latest data controversy comes after the NHS was forced to halt plans to share GP patient data with third parties to aid research, from some doctors and patients over how this information would be used. After the outcry.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Reasonable security measures are in place, and any information shared must be proportionate. The bill makes clear that information can only be shared in accordance with data protection laws.”


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