BCS fights for patient data

The British Computer Society (BCS) has called for an urgent review of proposed health legislation they claim will put patient privacy at risk.

According to the professional body, which represents over 38,000 computing specialists, clause 59 of the Health and Social Care Bill threatens to comprise the privacy of patients' personal medical data by giving the Secretary of State discretion over the way such sensitive information is used and shared between medical organisations.

"We are particularly concerned that the provision could undermine the excellent progress that has been made towards the greater use of electronic clinical information to deliver good patient care and to drive appropriate commissioning decisions," explains Mike Bainbridge, chairman of the Society's primary health care specialist group. In a statement issued by BCS recently, the organisation said that while it is in favour of anonymous medical information being used "in the public good", it does not believe that the sharing of private personal data between organisations can be justified, even if for "medical purposes".

"Government ministers have recently emphasised the importance of patient consent in respect of the removal of human tissue. Yet the Government is now introducing legislation that will limit the patient's right to consent to the use of personal healthcare information," wrote the organisation. "We urge the data protection commissioner to carry out a full review of this proposed piece of legislation."

Security experts, data protection specialists and human rights groups have supported the organisation's calls.

Read more on IT legislation and regulation