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EU law could scupper Care Record

Health minister Ben Bradshaw has admitted the rollout of the NHS Care Record could be banned under European law.

The revelation, which comes following fierce criticism from the health select committee over the safeguards being put in place to protect the confidentiality of patient data, comes three months after Pulse first reported that the Government's IT plan could fall foul of European legislation.

In a letter to an opposition MP, who raised concerns on behalf of a GP IT campaigner, Mr Bradshaw confirmed that the draft European Data Protection Directive, currently going through the European courts, would throw major question marks over the programme, if it becomes law.

‘It is true that if this document were to remain unchanged and become accepted as the interpretation of law that the European courts adopt in future, questions might arise about NHS compliance,' said the minister.

Pulse reported in May how Professor Douwe Korff, professor of international law at London Metropolitan University, had told the select committee's inquiry into the rollout that the implied consent model being used by Connecting for Health broke EU data protection legislation and would be challenged in the European courts.

One of the key aims of Pulse ongoing Common Sense on IT campaign has been to scrap the implied consent model in favour of patients having to opt in to the system . However, writing to Conservative MP for Rugby and Kenilworth, Jeremy Wright, Mr Bradshaw said the Department of Health still disputed Professor Korff's claim, although he refused to reveal details of the Govern-ment's legal advice.

Mr Bradshaw said he expected the EU legislation to be amended, after consultation with European governments, adding that as a consultation it carried ‘no legal weight'.

However, he admitted that the working group running the consultation in Europe ‘has suggested that it may be difficult to provide electronic health records with a robust legal basis.'

Mr Wright took up the case on behalf of veteran IT campaigner, Dr Paul Thornton, a GP in his constituency. Dr Thornton said: ‘Mr Bradshaw seems to be demanding greater privacy between him and his lawyers than he is willing to allow for patients in their dealings with their doctors. If he is so confident of the legal advice he has been given, and that he expects health care workers to follow, he should have no difficulty in publishing the advice in full.'

Care Record Ben Bradshaw - admitted Care Record roll out could be challenged Ben Bradshaw - admitted Care Record roll out could be challenged EU proposals

EU proposals

The key objective of the draft European Data Protection Directive is set out as protecting ‘the fundamental rights and freedoms of natural persons, and in particular their right to privacy with respect to the processing of personal data.'
It relates to the processing of personal data wholly or partly by automatic means or for the creation of a filing system.
Safeguards for personal data it also asks states to ensure that personal data is ‘processed fairly and lawfully; collected for specified, and legitimate purposes and not further processed in a way incompatible with those purposes.'

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