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Call on government to rethink data-sharing proposals

Healthcare organisations today join in a call for medical records to be exempt from legislation which would increase the government's power to access and share personal data.

In a joint letter, eight organisations, including the BMA, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Royal College of Surgeons and the Royal College of Nursing, raise concerns with Justice Secretary Jack Straw about proposals in the Coroners and Justice Bill.  

The letter expresses “grave concerns” about Clause 152 of the Bill which, in its current form, appears to grant the government unprecedented powers to access people's confidential medical records, and share them with third parties.  

The organisations warn that this would “undermine the presumption of confidentiality, corrode trust in the doctor-patient relationship and could have a disastrous impact on both the health of individuals and the public.”  

Dr Hamish Meldrum, Chairman of Council at the BMA, says:

“The doctor-patient relationship is based on trust. If patients cannot be 100% sure that their records are confidential, they will inevitably be reluctant to share vital information with their doctor.

“The Justice Secretary has indicated that he is willing to amend this legislation to protect a person's right to confidentiality.  We welcome the fact that he is taking people's concerns on board, and hope he will provide assurances that confidential health information will be exempt.”

The letter, which requests a meeting with Jack Straw, raises concerns about the potential impact on broader health policy issues, warning for example that it could undermine confidence in the NHS Care Records Service.

British Medical Association