When you check your letterbox for mail this morning, make sure you take a second glance because you might just miss a leaflet from NHS England detailing serious changes to the way our medical records are shared.
Last year we campaigned to ensure that patients have the right to opt-out of these changes, however, despite this victory for patient privacy, NHS England has taken the decision that if patients do wish to opt-out of sharing their medical records then they must visit their GP to do so. Given GPs are already very busy, people should not have to see their GP to opt-out of the system. It should be possible to opt-out online or over the phone, and people who opted out of previous NHS IT projects, such as the Summary Care Records, should have their choice carried over for this system.
This scheme is a fundamental change in the way our medical records are processed, so for the NHS to rely on the sort of leaflet drop you’d expect from a pizza shop is not good enough. Such a lacklustre scheme to inform the public is arguably illegal under data protection law and goes against the Government’s commitment to give patients control over their medical records. Clearly a huge amount of people will not see a leaflet dropped among the usual junk mail and it is surely right to expect that where our medical records are concerned, we should receive a personal letter at the very least.
Our research has highlighted that data protection regulation, which in theory should protect patients from having their information accessed unnecessarily, does not stop serious data protection breaches from occurring. Our medical records contain our most personal information and given the real privacy concerns about amassing a huge central database of patient information, the NHS should be showing far more respect than such a lazy effort to inform people about these changes.
If the NHS wants to share patients’ information with increasing amounts of third parties it is arguable that they have a duty to take extra steps to ensure that patients feel as though they have control. The Department for Health must stand by the Governments commitment to give patients more control over their medical records and recognise that this leaflet drop is wholly unacceptable.
medConfidential has created a letter that you can download and give to your GP practice to opt-out of the changes to your medical records