Editorials

Amendments to the Coroners and Justice Bill

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.b895 (Published 03 March 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b895
  1. Vivienne Nathanson, director of professional activities
  1. 1BMA, London WC1H 9JP
  1. vivn{at}bma.org.uk

    Concerns about data sharing may undermine doctors’ and patients’ confidence

    Committee stage discussions in parliament are currently under way on the Coroners and Justice Bill. Although most of the clauses relate to amendments to the coronial system, clause 152 is receiving substantial attention in the press.

    Clause 152 would allow all government departments to use a fast track procedure to share data without parliamentary debate. It includes a provision that allows ministers to “remove or modify any legal barrier to data sharing.” The explanatory notes say that, “This could be by repealing or amending other primary legislation, changing any other rule of law (for example, the application of the common law to confidentiality to defined circumstances), or creating a new power to share information where that power is currently absent.”

    What does this mean for health data? Simply, it means a complete change in the current presumption of confidentiality for all identifiable patient data. If a minister “deemed it necessary to secure a relevant policy objective” and if “the order strikes a fair balance between the public interest and the interests of any person affected by it” laws that currently limit the sharing of health data, including the Data …

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