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NHS Data Disclosures

Volume 460: debated on Tuesday 22 May 2007

The strongest safeguard is the professionalism of NHS staff themselves, but the modernisation of NHS IT also provides the opportunity to deploy state-of-the-art security safeguards, particularly for confidential patient information. In the rare cases where NHS staff do breach patient confidentiality, they are subject both to disciplinary measures and to the legal penalties provided under the Data Protection Act 1998; professional staff also risk losing their licence to practise.

Three weeks ago the Department of Health made an unauthorised disclosure of the personal details of junior doctors, which was a disgrace. More recently, the Public Accounts Committee severely criticised the main health IT system, which is already running two years late. Apart from the usual bland assurances that we get from the Secretary of State, what guarantees can she give us that patients’ personal medical records will not be disclosed, and as her Department is clearly incapable of running or commissioning anything properly, will she take independent advice on the matter?

The electronic patient records and other aspects of connecting for health have nothing whatever to do with MTAS; they have all been organised with the highest level of security safeguards, and that has been independently verified. The right hon. Gentleman is simply scaremongering, and instead of doing so—[Interruption.] The Conservative party already opposes identity cards. Is the right hon. Gentleman telling us that he will now oppose electronic patient records?