NHS database must go ahead, say MPs

NHS database must go ahead, say MPs

Confidentiality is an issue but is no reason to stop, says Commons health committee chairman

The chairman of the House of Commons Health Committee has brushed aside the confidentiality fears that have delayed the £12.5bn NHS summary care record database plan.

Labour MP Kevin Baron attacked medical professionals for propagating " palpable nonsense" in suggesting the government will profit by selling the intended 60 million health records to pharmaceutical and insurance companies. He also accused the British Medical Association (BMA) of "scaremongering" with claims earlier this month that people were wrongly accessing records through the network.

"My issue with some BMA members is that that is not a reason not to go ahead with using IT to bring health into the 21st century," he said in a Westminster Hall debate last week.

"I am not a clinician, but one could well argue that not having a central database could be a matter of life or death."

Baron said it was not going to be possible to stop all unauthorised access to patient records. But "sadly" the problem affects manual records now, he said.

Patients have to accept that "people other than the doctor are likely to access some of their records for purposes of looking after their interests", said Baron. The question is what action should be taken against fraudsters.

Barron argues in favour of the plan for electronic "sealed envelopes", within the record, containing information the patient wanted to keep confidential.

Health Minister Ben Bradshaw said the government "strongly supports the committee's recommendations about having stiffer penalties for breaches of the Data Protection Act."

He blamed delays "pretty much entirely because we took extra time to consult on and try to address record safety and patient confidentiality."

Patients will have the right to see their summary care record, and challenge and correct any errors, he said.