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Patients’ medical data sacrosanct, declares BMA

Patients should be able to ‘opt in’ to have their medical data shared, doctors and medical students declared. ARM thoughtful

The BMA annual representative meeting agreed the scheme lacked confidentiality in its current form and there was a risk that individual patient data could be shared.

Doctors and medical students said the potential uses of the data were not well-defined and the scheme could threaten the trust patients place in their GP.

Hertfordshire GP Mike Ingram said: ‘There are some concepts that are sacrosanct – that are fundamental to the very way in which society operates and for which the merest suspicion of their loss causes a reaction from disquiet at the least to full scale revolution at the most.

‘The confidentiality of the medical record is such.’

Dr Ingram said there had to be an opt-in system to restore the public’s confidence in the sanctity of the GP consulting room.


Restore confidence

Suffolk retired GP John McGough added: ‘This data is information collected from GP records. It’s the illnesses, the hopes, the fears and the confidences of our patients. It’s not just data, that term demeans it ... With confidentiality goes trust. If our patients feel they can no longer confide in us our work will be very difficult.’

But Dorset GP L-J Evans said opt- in schemes did not work because they were reliant on patients consenting to their data being shared.

‘As the BMA knows, from its suggestion of changing to an opt-out system for organ donation, opt-in schemes don’t work,’ she said.

If we have to rely on patients opting-in to the use of their data for research, they won’t. This would lead to skewed data and less robust research conclusions.

This is bad for medicine and for our patients.’

BMA medical ethics committee chair Tony Calland added that the association had successfully lobbied NHS England for an opt-out system for and reverting to an opt-in system would be seen as a backwards step by charities and patient groups.

The meeting also agreed that the data should only be used for the stated purpose for improving patient care and not sold for profit.

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