Government scraps plan for widespread medical records access
By Gareth Iacobucci
The Government has been forced to scrap a controversial clause in new legislation that would have allowed ministries far-reaching access to medical records.
Justice secretary Jack Straw has removed a key clause from the Coroners and Justice Bill that would have allowed Government departments ‘unprecedented access' to confidential records for uses such as tracking terrorist suspects.
The Government has backed down after a backlash from patients and leading healthcare organisations, and will instead launch a new public consultation on how to implement a more limited form of the proposals.
Leaders of eight leading healthcare organisations last week demanded a meeting with Mr Straw to discuss their concerns at the proposed new legislation.
A joint letter from the eight bodies, including the BMA, RCGP, Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and medical defence bodies, raised ‘grave concerns' about the plans.
A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Justice confirmed Clause 152 of the bill had been removed and said a new consultation would now be launched.
She said: ‘The patient and public scrutiny has thrown up concerns. Clearly it was never the Government's intention [to do this]. We have always said there is a balance to be struck. We take data protection very seriously.'
A BMA spokesperson said: ‘We think it's vital for the doctor-patient relationship that this legislation does not go ahead in its current form. We welcome indications that the Government is listening to the concerns raised by the BMA and a range of other bodies, and we look forward to further discussions with ministers.'