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New GP fears raised over confidentiality

By Joe Lepper

The doctor-patient relationship is seriously jeopardised by Government proposals to widen its access to patient identifiable information without gaining consent, the GPC and RCGP warn.

In a joint submission to the Department of Health, the two bodies said patients would increasingly demand to speak 'off the record' to GPs during consultations and withhold information because of fears over confidentiality.

The warning came in response to the department's consultation on plans to extend section 60 of the Health and Social Care Act.

Section 60 allows the Health Secretary to access patient identifiable data only for 'medical purposes' but this would be extended to cover management, commissioning and investigation and audit of the NHS.

The GPC and RCGP said they had 'extreme concern' the change would jeopardise the civil rights of patients and seriously affect GPs' ability to keep accurate records.

GPC joint-deputy chair Dr Hamish Meldrum said patients were increasingly aware of the way their records were kept on computers.

He said: 'We are very concerned by what is being proposed. Already patients are asking that certain things are not written down and this section 60 change could increase that happening.'

The GPC and RCGP have called on the department to introduce a 'short, sharp public campaign' to encourage patients to give their consent for use of data rather than extend section 60.

The Government has argued it has to extend the Act because there are an increasing number of areas where it is not possible to gain consent.

RCGP chair Professor David Haslam said the move would give the Health Secretary 'excessive' powers. 'It is important we registered our very grave concern over these changes,' he added.

The Department of Health said patient information would not be passed to private companies and would not

be abused by the Health Secretary, the NHS or other


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