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Patients (Clinical Information)

Volume 463: debated on Thursday 14 April 1949

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1.

asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that the senior administrative medical officer of the Manchester Regional Hospital Board has instructed medical officers at venereal disease clinics in the area that information about patients attending the clinics should not be disclosed to medical officers of health, even if requested for purposes of contact tracing; and, in view of the fact that medical officers of health in all parts of the country have always had free access to information about patients, which they have treated with confidence, if he will take steps to have this instruction withdrawn forthwith.

The Regional Hospital Board has rightly taken this step to ensure that the statutory regulation about secrecy of V.D. treatment is scrupulously observed.

Is the Minister aware that in the interests of an efficient health service it is vital that there should be the same free access to information by medical officers of health which they have had in the past not only for the essential purpose of contact tracing, but in order to ensure that proper after-care attention can be given to children whose mothers are known to have suffered from this disease?

It is not necessary for the purposes that my hon. Friend has in mind that there should be a disclosure of clinical details to medical officers of health. The patient's own doctor is, of course, made aware of all the circumstances.

How can health visitors deal with these matters unless they know the facts of the case?

The man's own doctor will be aware of all the facts of the case, and as the man's own doctor is a family physician, he will be concerned about the welfare of the children.

2.

asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that the senior administrative medical officer of the Manchester Regional Hospital Board has advised the secretary of the Bolton Hospital Management Committee that if medical officers of health ask for information about patients who are discharged from hospital and are in need of aftercare, only the address need be given; and, in view of the fact that after-care attention is often necessary and that children classed as handicapped are entirely the responsibility of the local authority, if he will take steps to cancel this instruction.

I understand that the Board has encouraged management committees to co-operate fully with local authorities but has rightly advised them not to disclose to them clinical details of patients which should generally be treated as confidential.

Will the Minister bear in mind that under the National Health Act there is a responsibility on local authorities in respect of after-care work, and to refuse medical officers of health any information other than the address is to reduce them to the level of laboratory assistants which will have a deleterious effect on the whole health service?

My hon. Friend is attributing a status to the medical officers of health which they themselves do not claim. He ought not to refer to them in such terms. It is undesirable that there should be a general access to clinical details of patients' conditions. It is only necessary for that to be done where tracing is absolutely essential.