asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) what proposals he has for the protection of the confidential relationship between doctor and patient in the National Health Service, having regard to the control which regional and area administrators will have over computerised personal records;(2) if he will make a statement on the confidentiality of patients' records and the use of computers.
Administrative staff are necessarily involved in handling personal medical records, and have assisted in the management of such records since the inception of the National Health Service. The bulk of medical records are still maintained in manual systems and the same long-standing principles of medical confidentiality apply to all records whether in manual or computer systems. Administrative staff, including computer staff, who have access to medical records as a necessary part of their duties are expected to conform to the ethics of the medical profession with respect to confidentiality, subject to enforcement by disciplinary action by their employing authority if necessary. Safeguards for privacy relating to medical records held on computers will be reviewed in the light of recommendations by the Data Protection Committee, whose report is expected to be published shortly.
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will introduce legislation to safeguard individual privacy whenever someone seeks medical help, in view of the recent computer scheme which has been proposed by his Department, and which may, unless controlled, allow non-medical persons access to the medical records of individual patients; and if he will make a statement.
My Department's policy is that the same long-standing principles of confidentiality should apply to all personal medical records, whether held in computers or—as the great majority are—in manual systems. Under certain circumstances and subject to the same ethics as the medical profession some non-medical staff have had access to patients' private records where this is necessary for the performance of their duties: this has been so since the inception of the National Health Service. The subject of statutory and other safeguards for privacy in relation to personal information held on computers in all fields has been considered by the Data Protection Committee whose report is expected to be published shortly. The position relating to medical records held on computers will be reviewed in the light of recommendations made by the Data Protection Committee.