Data privacy fears undermining patient safety, RCGP chair tells Labour conference

Concerns over privacy of patient information are standing in the way of patient safety, the RCGP chairwoman has told a Labour party conference meeting.

Dr Maureen Baker: Patient safety must override data privacy concerns (Photo: Pete Hill)
Dr Maureen Baker: Patient safety must override data privacy concerns (Photo: Pete Hill)

Dr Maureen Baker, who also works as a strategic safety advisor for the Health and Social Care Information Centre, told an RCGP event at the conference in Brighton it was ‘unfortunate’ that legitimate privacy concerns seemed to be rated more highly than the safety advantages of data sharing.

Answering a question about concerns over the delayed programme Dr Baker said: ‘From a safety perspective, the safest thing is for the clinician dealing with that patient - wherever they may be in the system - to have the information; that’s most safe for the care of that patient.’

She added: ‘I think it is really unfortunate that legitimate concerns around privacy and information governance seem somehow to be rated more highly than the safety of the individual patient.’ privacy doubts

The patient information sharing programme has been dogged by doubts over privacy concerns.

The government, however, said in the summer that just 2% of GP patients had opted out of the programme, which shares medical information with researchers.

Dr Baker, speaking at the RCGP-organised event in Brighton, said there were ‘tensions between perfect information governance and perfect patient safety’.

Guardian columnist and health policy writer Polly Toynbee agreed. ‘The privacy obsession has got really in the way,' she said. Patient safety ‘overrides’ privacy concerns, she added.

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