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Claims over safety of confidential patient records dismissed

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The Department of Health has dismissed claims non-clinical staff can access confidential patient records as “false” and “confused”.

Taxpayers’ Alliance campaign group Big Brother Watch says information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act shows over 100,000 non-clinical NHS staff have access.

Porters, hospital administrators and IT staff can access paper or online records, the campaigners claim.

They contacted acute hospital trusts across the UK and received responses from 140.

The group asked specifically for the number of staff not directly involved in the treatment of patients who have immediate access to medical records.

Immediate access was defined as staff who could see at least a patient’s name, date of birth and most recent medical history without needing the consent of the patient or the signature of another member of staff.

Alex Deane, director of Big Brother Watch, said the Government needed to address the problems as a matter of urgency.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: “This report is awash with inaccuracies and manages to claim quite falsely that detailed medical records will be shared nationally - they won’t.

“The authors are also confused, muddling the distinction between paper files, which allow any member of staff to see confidential information, and new electronic systems which strictly control access to those directly involved in a patient’s healthcare.

“We have made it very clear that it is completely unacceptable for staff with no involvement in providing and supporting patient care to access confidential information.

“We have set clear standards for NHS organisations to adhere to on data handling, and have issued guidance that sets out the steps they must take to ensure records are kept secure and confidential.”

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Readers' comments (1)

  • The DH remains as complacent as ever about the leakage of confidential information through computer systems. A new attitude is needed, starting at the top!

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