Confidentiality fears force survey change

Confidentiality fears raised by the DoH's own advisers have forced changes to the way the 2008 patient survey will be implemented.

The DoH's Patient Information Advisory Group (PIAG) opposed plans for the continued use of Apollo Medical System software to extract patient details in medical records.

The PIAG felt that the benefits to the public of conducting the survey did not outweigh the concerns over the use of confidential information.

The DoH explained: 'The concern was potential risk to individuals receiving a survey letter linking to a recent appointment or referral.'

The DoH said that the 2008 survey would not breach patient confidentiality: 'The NHAIS (Exeter) registration system selects patients at random from practices' registered lists without reference to appointment or referral information so there are no such concerns over confidentiality. Practices will hand out the questionnaire directly to relevant patients.'

The DoH also denied that the 2007 survey breached patient confidentiality.

It added: 'The DoH's Caldicott Guardian was content that arrangements put in place to conduct the access survey were sufficient to address the needs of the Data Protection Act 1998. That saw required data processing agreements put in place between all relevant parties.'

The survey measures practice performance against the standards set out in the access and choice and booking directed enhanced services.

Practices not wishing to take part should contact the DoH by email at GPPatientSurvey@dh.gsi.gov.uk by 30 November.

Practices will receive their choice questionnaires directly from Ipsos MORI in January 2008. There will be a reimbursement payment to practices for handing out the questionnaires as per last year's criteria.

neil.durham@haymarket.com

DoH guidance

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