The Guardian reported on Saturday 14 February that Dr Hamish Meldrum, Chairman of the British Medical Association, had said that the profession was extremely concerned about the Government’s Information Sharing proposals. There were concerns that The Spine, the proposed national medical database, could be accessed under powers contained in the proposals. Dr Meldrum believes this would undermine the relationship of trust and confidentiality between patient and doctor.
Dr Meldrum said
“The bill gives any minister the right to access patient-identifiable information – and give others access to it. There appears to be no limit to what could be done with this information as long as a Minister can make a vague … justification, claiming that sharing the information is in line with government policy at the time. The doctor-patient relationship is built primarily on trust that information is given confidentially and will not normally be shared without the patient’s consent. Once we go down the road where that principle can be breached, widespread possibilities could flow.”
The Ministry of Justice said data would be shared only “in circumstances where the sharing of the information is in the public interest and proportionate to the impact on any person adversely affected by it”. The Department of Health said “It was important to ensure that patient confidentiality is preserved and that patients consent to how their records are used.”
Apparently doctors are concerned that medical information could be used to vet recruits or check people claiming benefits.
One can see already what a rats nest these proposals are turning out to be. In my view they don’t make sense at all, but if you assume they make a vague sense, then there is every reason to think Dr Meldrum is right in his assessment above.
Still, as The Spine may never work, perhaps we should be more concerned about the health hazards of that, rather than about the privacy hazards of the information being shared if it does.