BMA Scotland welcomes clarity on 'named person' access to patient data

The Scottish BMA has welcomed amendments to the nation's controversial named person legislation that will offer greater protection against GP data being shared without patient consent.

GPC Scotland chair Dr Alan McDevitt (Photo: Douglas Robertson)
GPC Scotland chair Dr Alan McDevitt (Photo: Douglas Robertson)

The Scottish government has announced that it will amend its ‘named person’ legislation to protect patient data to ensure GPs have permission to share health records with third parties.

The previous, controversial plans were rejected by the Supreme Court last year due to concerns over its information sharing provisions.

The plans came under fire for ruling that the named person could access information on the child – potentially including GP data – as part of their role to ensure the wellbeing of any assigned children.

The Scottish government says the scheme allows families to have a simple, one point of contact if a child, young person or their parent wants information or advice. The person would usually be a health visitor for pre-school children or a senior teacher for school-aged children.

The Court determined the previous plans were incompatible with EU human rights laws for failing to respect a person’s ‘private and family life, his home and his correspondence’.

Named person legislation

Dr Alan McDevitt, Scottish GPC chairman, welcomed the announcement, warning that confidentiality between doctors and patients must be maintained.

He said: ‘The BMA has been raising concerns about the information sharing requirements of the named person legislation since the bill was first being considered and we are pleased to hear that new legislation will be introduced to ensure that information will only be shared with consent in all but the most exceptional circumstances.

‘Patient confidentiality must be maintained wherever possible and access to patient information without the consent or knowledge of a patient should be used only where there is perceived risk to the individual.

‘Confidentiality of personal health information is the cornerstone of the patient/doctor relationship.  Patients need to be reassured that their health information, which they share in confidence with a doctor, will be treated confidentially otherwise they may feel unable to trust and seek help from healthcare professionals.’

Speaking in parliament on Tuesday, John Swinney, deputy first minister of Scotland, said: ‘I propose to bring forward a bill that will include new provisions on when and how information can be shared by and with the named person service.

GP data

‘The new provisions will ensure that we address the Supreme Court’s judgment, live up to our objective of supporting children and young people and give them and their families reassurance that their rights are fully respected.

‘I intend to introduce the bill ahead of the summer recess, and I will work with parliament to agree a timetable to enable commencement in 2018.

‘This approach will involve replacing some of the provisions in the 2014 act that the Supreme Court was concerned about with new provisions that require named person service providers, and others involved with children and young people, to consider whether sharing information will promote, support or safeguard the wellbeing of the child or young person and is compatible with data protection law, human rights and the law of confidentiality.

‘Only if information can be consistently shared within those legal constraints will the power be there to share it—the legislation will make that clear.’

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