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Medical Research (Patients' Privacy)

Volume 927: debated on Friday 11 March 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many names of patients on doctors' lists were divulged by the Central Services Agency without the patient's prior consent to the Department of Therapeutics and Pharmacology, Queen's University, Belfast; and what action has been taken following the breach of confidentiality.

To enable the Department of Therapeutics and Pharmacology, Queen's University, to undertake an analysis of the prescribing and use of drugs, as part of an international study, the Central Services Agency provided it with the names of 2,423 patients on doctors' lists. The Agency did not obtain the consent of the patients before giving the names to the University Department but imposed a number of conditions to safeguard confidentiality, including a requirement that no patient should be visited without his or her prior permission and agreement to participate in the project. The Department of Health and Social Services has now written to the Central Services Agency and to the Health and Social Services Boards to make it quite clear that in future, when proposals for research projects are being considered, names of patients are in no circumstances to be divulged without their consent.