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GPs condemn 'Big Brother spying on patients'

By Lilian Anekwe

GPs in Northern Ireland have attacked the Department of Health for allowing confidential patient information to be transferred from practices to Ipsos MORI as part of the patient survey.

Delegates at the Northern Ireland LMC conference expressed concern that the Northern Ireland's Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety had failed to act while ‘identifiable personal information has been transmitted, without consent, to a private organisation for the propose of monitoring patients view of the health service.'

Dr Brian Patterson, a GP in Portglenone and chairman of the BMA's Northern Ireland council, said he had been accused by several angry patients of passing their details on to a third party without their permission.

‘I've had complaints from patients about identifiable information being given to MORI as part of the patient survey, and many people have rightly raised questions about breaches of their privacy.

‘The use of patient-reported outcome measures will become much more widespread and will be part of the revalidation process, so GPs in the UK need urgent clarification on this.

‘This is Big Brother trying to get access to our patient's data and it will irrevocably damage the doctor patient relationship. We need to find out where we stand and what the alternatives are if we are unwittingly acting illegally.'

Delegates at the conference, held in Enniskillen on Sunday, also passed a motion expressing concern about ‘the increasing attempts to extract patient data from GP computer systems by third parties without the informed consent from our patients.'

Dr Jimmy Courtney, a GP in Holywood, County Down and secretary of Eastern LMC said: ‘We need to maintain public confidence that the information we get is safe and secure.

‘It's very important that we are talking with the Department of Health about how information is being used so we can be sure that it adheres to the Data Protection Act.'

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