Medical Information and the Data Protection Act
We need to keep information about you so that we can provide the best possible health care. Details of your name, address, date of birth, next of kin as well as your medical history are kept on our computer records and on paper records. These records include contacts you have had with the surgery, clinical notes I hospital letters, laboratory and x-ray results, casualty attendance and details of attendances at other doctors surgeries.
Having accurate up-to-date information means that Doctors, Nurses and other health care professionals can give the correct sort of care and treatment.
We have a legal responsibility to keep all this information held about you confidential. Our obligations (and that of other health professionals who work with us) are set out in the Data Protection Act 1998. This Act also sets out your own rights.
There may be times when we need to share information about you with other people who are involved in your medical care. The sharing of medical information is covered in the Act. It states that the sharing of sensitive, patient-related information is allowable for medical purposes as long as it is shared with a health professional – e.g. GP, nurse or health visitor, or a person who, though not a health professional, has a responsibility to preserve confidentiality- e.g. practice administration staff.
Information from your medical records is sometimes requested for use in research and statistical analysis. In the Data Protection Act the use of information for medical purposes is defined to include preventative medicine, medical diagnosis, medical research, the provision of care and treatment and the management of health care services. Wherever possible the gathering of information used for such purposes is done anonymously. This information can then be passed on to organisations such as universities, research institutions, hospitals and other places with a legitimate interest in the information.
This sort of information is very important as it can be used to measure how well we are addressing health issues. Where medical information is used for this purpose, strict measures are taken to ensure that individual patients cannot be identified. Sometimes however, it is not possible to use anonymous information, but in this event any release of information would only take place with your
consent, unless the law required that it be passed on in the interest of public health.
Everyone working within the NHS and within our own surgery has a legal duty to keep information about you confidential.
We will not disclose information about you to any third parties without your permission unless there are exceptional circumstances such as when the health and safety of yourself or others is at risk or where the law requires information to be passed on. Sometimes other people outside the NHS (e.g. Social Services) may be involved in your care. We may need to share information about you so that we can all work together for your benefit. This will only be done where there is a genuine need.
Anyone receiving information from us is also under a legal duty to keep it confidential.
Patients have the right to object to information being disclosed to a third party in a form that identifies them, even if this is someone who might provide essential healthcare. Please advise the Practice Manager in writing if you would like an objection noted on your records.
Patients have the right to see their medical records, where copies of records are requested a fee will be charged in accordance with the Act.