Huppert challenges Health Minister over medical database

26 February, 2014 No Comments

MP Julian Huppert has raised his concerns about an NHS data sharing programme involving medical records which has been delayed for six months following fears about privacy.

He challenged Health Minister, Jeremy Hunt in Parliament yesterday (Tuesday, February 25) to use the delay to make sure that patients are guaranteed anonymity through the scheme and told how they can opt out.

The central database, which would link GP and hospital records, was due to start in April but was delayed after doctors and patient groups raised their concerns about privacy, data security and flaws in information about opt out.

Julian told Mr Hunt: “There are of course huge benefits from using properly anonymised data for research, but it is difficult to anonymise the data properly and, given how the scheme has progressed so far, there is a huge risk to public confidence.”

And he asked: “Will the Secretary of State use the current pause to work with the Information Commissioner to ensure that the data are properly anonymised and that people can have confidence in how their data will be used and how they can opt out?”

Mr Hunt agreed to act on Julian’s request saying: “NHS England was absolutely right to have a pause so that we ensure that we give people such reassurance…This programme is too important to get wrong, and while I think that there is understanding on both sides of the House about the benefits of using anonymised data properly, the process must be carried out in a way that reassures the public.”

Julian said later: “This programme offers the opportunity to learn a great deal from patients’ treatment and care to make improvements for the future and benefit scientific research. But it has to be done properly so that patients can be absolutely certain that their data is anonymous and is not able to get into the wrong hands.

“So far the government’s information campaign on this programme has been haphazard to say the least. Some people received literature through their doors, others knew nothing about it until it was picked up by the media. The government has to do better than this. Patients deserve full and frank information, strong guarantees on anonymity and security and clear information on how to opt out if they so choose. Until this happens this programme should not go ahead.”

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