NHS database 'could be unlawful'

The NHS database could be unlawful under European human rights laws, campaigners have warned.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the rights of a Finnish nurse were breached when her colleagues accessed her medical records.

Campaigners say this confirms that health staff not involved in a patient's care should have no access to their records.

At present, however, NHS staff can access the record of any patient who has a relationship with their organisation, providing they have the appropriate ID card. Measures to prevent inappropriate access to data take the form of retrospective punishments.

Warwickshire GP and IT expert Dr Paul Thornton warned that the case ‘exactly illustrates the problems that will arise in the UK'.

But a spokesman for CfH implied the ruling would not affect government policy.

He said that the IT agency ‘has always supported higher penalties for the inappropriate accessing of patient data when it is malicious as opposed to accidental'.

But he declined to comment on the court's view that retrospective penalties were insufficient safeguards against inappropriate access.

jonn.elledge@haymarket.com

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