'Illegal' NHS care record should be scrapped

The NHS detailed care record, which will hold GP and hospital records in remote servers, should be scrapped because it breaches data protection and human rights law, according to new research. Julie Griffiths reports.

Photograph: JH Lancy
Photograph: JH Lancy

The report, Database State, by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, lists the detailed care record as one of 11 schemes that should be scrapped immediately or substantially redesigned.

Using a traffic light system, the researchers gave the NHS summary care record an amber light, meaning there are significant problems, along with another 28 databases.

The summary care record, which will initially hold information such as prescriptions and allergies, should be subject to an independent review immediately, according to the report.

It said that if patients were not able to opt out of the system then this too would be a ‘red’ database and should be scrapped.

The report was critical of the detailed care record because it would result in a lack of control or accountability.

It would be ‘reckless’ for the NHS to embrace a system that allows many care providers to add comments ‘Wikipedia-style’, says the report.

There are ‘serious privacy issues’ in such a system, it says.

As an example, the research points to reports that making GP records available to social workers has eroded trust in doctors.

It said that this made low-income single mothers less likely to seek treatment for post-natal depression for fear of reprisal from social services.

Only six of the 46 public sector systems were awarded a green light as having a proper legal basis for privacy intrusions and are proportionate and necessary in a democratic society.

The study was conducted by the Foundation for Information Policy Research for the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust.

A DoH spokesperson said: 'It is simply wrong to claim that the summary care record and other aspects of the National Programme for IT are unlawful. This report is full of basic errors and below the standards usually expected for a Rowntree report.

'Neither patient consent nor confidentiality are being overridden. The aim of the National Programme for IT is to provide information to doctors and nurses which will save lives and improve the quality of care. Central to it is patient consent and the right of patients to opt out.'


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