Friday, December 22, 2006

Fat stats should override privacy?

Tam FryIn 2001 the government rammed through Parliament a power to share medical records without patient consent. Shroud-waving by cancer researchers ("people will die if we can't access everyone's medical records without their consent") means that s.60 of the Health and Social Care Act gives the government the power to waive privacy protections "(a) in the interests of improving patient care" and "(b) in the public interest."

Now we see just how widely that power is being interpreted by some in the healthcare sector:

An attempt to discover how fat British children are has been hampered by the refusal of many families to take part in the study…

Tam Fry, the chairman of the Child Growth Foundation, said that the exercise had been a waste of time. "Nationally, the data is useless," he said. He blamed the guidelines drawn up by a committee dominated by politically correct attitudes.

He is redrafting the guidelines for 2007 and intends to take a tougher line. "The Social Care Act says that when there is an urgent need for medical information it can override an individual's right to refuse." (The Times, 21/12/06, p.24)

Actually, the legislation does not say that. It says that the government can by order require private information (such as weight) to be shared when it is in the possession of a third party. Even so, what "urgent need" do we have for nationwide information on children's weight that would justify this invasion of privacy?


Anonymous said...

Just to point out an error on your report. Section Sixty (SS) does not allow sharing of data against the wishes of the patient. If the patient has said no, then SS can not be used. That is according to the Patient Information Advisory Group), the peole that give out a SS. If you do not want your data shared under SS then you should tell those that have your data not to share it.

Dave said...

I thought forcing people, especially children, to take part in research was unlawful. How would they get them to take part? Threaten the parents with Social Services (more info for the child index)? Use force on children to make them stand on rthe scales and have their height taken? Or wouyld they just steal all they want from the NHS spine?