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GPs to have new ‘duty to share’ confidential patient data

GPs have been told not to be overcautious about sharing personal confidential data from patients with other organisations and will be given a new ‘duty to share’, under plans revealed by the Government today.

The Department of Health said that healthcare professionals could rely on ‘implied consent’ to share personal confidential data for direct care with other health or care professionals who have a ‘legitimate relationship’ with the patient.

The department’s response to the Caldicott review of information governance says relevant personal confidential data should be shared among ‘registered and regulated health and social care professionals who have a legitimate relationship with the individual’ and even supports sharing of infromation with other members of the care team if there are ‘appropriate safeguards’ in place.

The response says: ‘The duty to share information can be as important as the duty to protect patient confidentiality. Health and social care professionals should have the confidence to share information in the best interests of their patients within the framework set out by these principles. They should be supported by the policies of their employers, regulators and professional bodies.’

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: ‘In the past, information governance rules have prioritised systems over people. Too often they have been seen as an insurmountable obstacle and an excuse to avoid sharing information. We outline a new approach here.’

‘This new approach will mean that frontline staff will be confident about when to share information with other members of a person’s care team and how to do so safely.’

The response also casts doubt on whether the Government will implement the recommended ‘accredited safe havens’ that the Caldicott review recommended should be set up to ensure potentially identifiable patient information does not leak out.

It says: ‘If the decision is taken that accredited safe havens are a solution to the challenges, then the [recommendation] will be taken forward by the department and national partner organisations.’

But the document does reaffirm the Government’s commitment to allow patients to opt out of having their data shared in the NHS.

It says: ‘The Secretary of State has announced that any patient who does not want personal data held in their GP record to be shared with the Health and Social Care Information Centre will have their objection respected, unless there is legislation to support mandatory disclosure.’

But it says that GP practices with a high rate of objections from patients to their data being shared would be investigated.

It says: ‘Where there appears to be an abnormal number of objections, the BMA and NHS England will explore with practices why this might be occurring.’