NHS IT agency queries national record safety

Connecting for Health's (CfH's) own research has raised concerns that the planned national record system will jeopardise patient care, concluding that locally held information would be safer.

Fear of a breach in confidentiality could ‘deter the patient from seeking advice or medication, which may be detrimental to their long-term health or to their family and community if they have a communicable disease’, says an internal CfH document, which has been obtained by ‘The Big Opt-Out’ privacy campaign.  

Warwickshire GP Dr Paul Thornton, from the pressure group which calls for patients to opt out of the national system, said that a patient suffering from impotence might not be checked for diabetes due to being embarrassed that his visit would be permanently recorded.  

The CfH document concludes that patient care would probably be safer using locally held records rather than the DoH’s planned national database.  

Various stakeholders, including GPs, academics and the British Computer Society, have called for a more localised structure (GP, 8 August). Last week, a DoH spokeswoman said a review of the IT programme commissioned by NHS chief executive David Nicholson aimed ‘to achieve a shift in ownership to the local NHS’.  

CfH’s report was intended to examine the risks to patients that would arise depending on whether ‘sealed envelopes’, selecting who was able to see selected information about patients, were used.  

However, because of concerns expressed by participants, a third scenario — database information held locally — was also analysed. This third scenario was found to be the safest.  

Dr Thornton said that this acknowledgment of problems from internal and normally vocal supporters of the scheme showed the need ‘to review the whole project’. He added that GPs should not get involved in national database pilots.  

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