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Data sharing bill will let government snoop patient records, doctors warn

Britain's medical fraternity has condemned the government's plans to share data, including medical records across Whitehall and has asked for a meeting with ministers to have medical records exempted.

Britain's medical fraternity has condemned the government's plans to share data, including medical records across Whitehall and has asked for a meeting with ministers to have medical records exempted.

Eight organisations that represent Britain's doctors, nurses and medical academics, led by the British Medical Association, yesterday asked justice minister Jack Straw to exempt patient records from the government's data sharing legislation in a bill now in committee.

In a joint letter they expressed "grave concerns" about Clause 152 of the Coroners and Justice Bill. They said the clause appeared to grant the government unprecedented powers to access people's confidential medical records, and share them with third parties.

The organisations said this would "undermine the presumption of confidentiality, corrode trust in the doctor-patient relationship and could have a disastrous impact on both the health of individuals and the public."

The letter also raised concerns about the potential impact on broader health policy issues, warning that it could undermine confidence in the NHS Care Records Service.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of council at the BMA, said,

"The doctor-patient relationship is based on trust. If patients cannot be 100% sure that their records are confidential, they will inevitably be reluctant to share vital information with their doctor.

According to Meldrum, Straw had said he was willing to change the law to protect a person's right to confidentiality. Meldrum said the medical profession welcomed this and hoped the minister would exempt confidential health information.

The eight organisations were the BMA, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Royal College of Surgeons, the Royal College of Nursing, the Medical Protection Society, the Medical Defence Union, the Faculty of Public Health, and the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges.

>> Read the full letter here

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