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The waiting game

Catholic and Muslim patients likely to opt out of electronic records

By Steve Nowottny

Millions of Catholic and Muslim patients could opt out of having electronic care records because their data may be used without explicit consent for research purposes contrary to their faiths, Pulse has learned.

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales has condemned as ‘unacceptable' the Government's proposals for a massive expansion in the use of patient records for research purposes.

Under the plans, currently being consulted upon, patients who have given implied consent for a Summary Care Record to be created for them will not be asked for further consent before their data is shared.

But Catholic leaders have protested that patients' records could be used without consent for purposes such as abortion or stem cell research.

A spokesperson for the Catholic Bishops' Conference said it recognised the importance of patient data in supporting research, but added: ‘While too many barriers to accessing data should be avoided, it is possible that data could be used for research which patients find morally or ethically unacceptable or objectionable, and withdrawing the need for patient consent here would be unacceptable.'

And Dr Shahab Ullah Qureshi, a GP in Dudley and committee member of the Muslim Doctors and Dentist Association, said that while many Muslim doctors saw the benefits of research, patients were likely to have ethical objections.

‘There are certain areas where people have definite concerns about what may happen,' he said.

‘People could feel this [data] could be used in the wrong sense, in the wrong areas such as organ donation and stem cell research.'

A spokesperson for Connecting for Health said: ‘Patients can say they do not want to have their records held for research – this would involve them making a formal request, under the Data Protection Act, for identifiable data to be removed on the grounds that its presence there causes distress and we would, of course, act on such a request.'

Laying hands on data: IT chiefs face massive religious opposition Laying hands on data: IT chiefs face massive religious opposition

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