Plans to hand over NHS data to police sparks warning from government adviser

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The government’s data watchdog has warned that plans to force the NHS to share confidential data with police across England are “very problematic” and could see patients passing false information to GPs.

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In its first interview, England’s national data guardian told Granthshala She has serious concerns about the Home Office’s plan to impose a responsibility on the NHS to share patient data with police, which she said “separates” the duty of confidentiality for physicians. .

Dr Nicola Byrne also warned that emergency powers brought in to allow data sharing to help combat the spread of COVID-19 may not last indefinitely after being extended to March 2022.


Dr Byrne, 46, who has a 20-year career in mental health, warned against a lack of regulation on how patient data is collected, stored and shared through health apps.

he also told Granthshala He had raised concerns with the government over the provisions of the Police, Crime, Punishment and Courts Bill, which is being passed in the House of Lords later this month.

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The law may impose on NHS bodies to disclose private patient data to police to prevent serious violence and significantly separates the duty of confidentiality on physicians who collect information when providing care.

Dr Byrne said doing so “can reduce trust and confidence, and prevent people from sharing information and even submitting it to clinical care”.

He said it was unclear what exact information the bill would include: “The case has not been made as to why this is necessary. These things need to be debated openly and publicly.”

And opinion polls conducted by Data Guardian since 2018 have shown a high level of concern by the public about their health data falling into the wrong hands.

The most recent Kantar survey shows that 67 per cent of the public are concerned about cyber attacks, while 69 per cent are concerned about data being illegally or mistakenly shared with companies or organizations outside the NHS.

The National Data Guardian is appointed by the Secretary of Health as an independent watchdog over the use of patient data in health care. Dr Byrne was appointed in March this year after a career spanning 20 years working in mental health and serving as Chief Clinical Information Officer at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.

“We’ve been really straight with the people about what we’re doing. Getting the public involved and getting social license is not a one-off. It’s not a sheep-dipping exercise. Public participation has been incorporated into the infrastructure of our system.” Must go,” she said.

Dr Brian said: “It is very important that the government proceed with extreme caution with widespread sharing of data across government departments. We have to ensure that no assumptions are made about the post-pandemic data landscape, that There is no compromise on the importance of confidentiality and confidentiality.

“We need to be very clear that the emergency use of emergency powers is short-lived and only until the end of the pandemic, and only for the purposes of the COVID response. There must be an endpoint. “

And if these freedoms were extended, she said patients “may provide incomplete information or may not even be present. This can undermine trust in the system as a whole and cannot be exaggerated.”

“Data is a joint construct between patient and physician, and we run the risk of changing the nature of that relationship,” she said.

And she said the recent uproar over plans to share more GP patient data was an example of the perceptions the public has about it tolerating.

During 2020-21, the Office of the Information Commissioner received more reports of data security breaches in health than in any other area of ​​business or public service.

There were 1,512 violations in health compared to a total of 8,815 in the UK for all violations.

Dr Byrne, who took over following the death of Dame Fiona Caldicott in February, continues to work part-time as a psychiatrist in south London.


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