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CQC launches public consultation on accessing patient records

The CQC has launched a public consultation asking for views on their processes for accessing medical records and other personal information.

The consultation comes in light of an update to the CQC’s Codes of Practice for accessing confidential material to make it clearer to inspectors, NHS staff and the public – including better reassurances that their personal info is handled ‘safely and appropriately at all times’.

The CQC can already use its regulatory powers to access patient medical records without gaining prior consent, and it is not proposing to change this practice.

In the consultation document, the CQC says that accessing confidential personal information ‘plays an essential role in CQC’s inspections’, explaining that this could for example mean going through a sample of medical records to check prescribing systems are in place.

It can access a patient’s medical or care records, or specific pieces of information about their physical or mental health, condition or treatments.

But it can also access and disclose information about a care provider’s social or family life; details of a care worker’s education, training and experience; and information about the sexuality, religious beliefs and racial or ethnic origin of a CQC employee.

The CQC is asking for views on whether the updated code of practice ’provides a consistent and lawful approach to obtaining, using, disclosing and handling confidential personal information across all areas of CQC’s work’.

It also asked whether it is ’clear and easy to follow, and fully explains why and how we may need to use people’s confidential personal information, and whether it reassures people that by following this Code, their information will be handled safely and appropriately at all times’.

The consultation queries: ’Having read the Code, how happy would you be for CQC to hold confidential personal information about yourself or members of your family?’

Respondents are asked to rate from 1-5 and, if not happy, asked to specify what their concerns are.

CQC chief executive David Behan said: ’Our aim in revising the code is to ensure that it provides clear and easy-to-follow guidance to support our staff in making lawful, ethical and appropriate decisions in relation to confidential personal information and that it tells people what they can expect from CQC in how we handle private information.

’The code has implications for people who use the services we regulate and for everyone who works in the care sector, so I would encourage you to take part.’