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Patient privacy rules strengthened

The Health Secretary last week responded to the Caldicott Review on information governance in health and social care, outlining that information and technology will only have a transformational effect on healthcare if this agenda respects the relationship of trust between a medical professional and their patient.

Speaking at the Electronic Patient Records Conference, Jeremy Hunt said that while effective sharing of patient information has enormous potential to improve patient care, services and treatments, this can only be done effectively ifpatients are given a say over how their personal information is used.

He announced that:

  • Any patient that does not want personal data held in their GP record to be shared with the Health and Social Care Information Centre will have their objection respected;
  • Where personal data has already been shared from a GP practice to the Information Centre, a patient will still be able to have the identifiable information removed

The BMA, NHS England and the Royal College of GPs will be raising public awareness so that people are informed of the changes and know how they can lodge an objection and GPs understand the role they need to play in implementing this.

Hunt said: “The Caldicott review has been about striking the right balance between sharing people’s health and care information to improve services and develop new treatments while respecting the privacy and wishes of the patient.

“If patients are to see the benefits of these changes we must respect the wishes of the small number of people who would prefer not to share this information. I firmly believe that technology can transform the quality of healthcare in this country, but we must always respect the fact that this is very personal information about an individual.”

Hunt also announced that Dame Fiona will chair an independent panel to oversee and scrutinise implementation of the review’s recommendations and to provide advice on information governance issues.

A full response to the Caldicott review will be made in the summer.