Data 'lost' in rush to create NHS database

Patient data may have been lost as the DoH rushed to create an NHS patient database, the BMA's representative on the new National Information Governance Board for Health and Social Care (NIGB) has said.

Dr Tony Calland, who is also chairman of the BMA ethics committee, said NHS Connecting for Health (CfH) had been 'pushing ahead with all kinds of IT solutions without really considering how information governance was going to work'.

'It was under pressure from the DoH, which was under pressure from higher up the line,' he said.

Dr Calland said he feared that, as a result, there had been 'a great deal of leaking around the edges before anybody started to look at becoming more restrictive with data'.

He said other threats to privacy, such as councils selling electoral rolls to private companies, were far more serious.

The NIGB became a statutory body in November. It has powers to investigate and monitor the security of NHS records.However, it will have no powers of enforcement, except to report its findings to regulators or the secretary of state.

Dr Calland said that CfH had now begun to appreciate the need for better data security and patient consent.

'Since the HMRC debacle (in which HM Revenue and Customs mislaid 25 million sets of personal details), the loss of personal data is slowly becoming a hanging offence,' he said.

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