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Medical Records

Oldham Chronicle
March 11, 2002

It was disclosed in The Observer (March 3, 2002) that "Doctors could be fined up to 5,000 if they refuse to hand over patients' confidential medical record to drug companies and other organisations" under controversial plans put forward by Ministers.

The proposals introduced this Easter give the Health Secretary (Alan Milburn) power to order a doctor to hand over confidential medical records without a patient's consent if it is thought to be in the public interest.

It's a breach of human rights law and data protection law. My campaign for the truth/public inquiry into benzodiazepine drugs and their consequences has been deliberately blocked by the Department of Health and its minister.

I have been the subject of a gagging order by the Medicines Control Agency and in addition one drug company in particular, John Wyeth & Brother Limited (manufacturers of Ativan), is refusing to answer my letters.

My actions are in the public interest, too. So why is there no level playing field, between an individual's demand and a global drug company's?

Just who is running this country and Government, if not the drug companies and the establishment?

Barry Haslam
Uppermill, Oldham


Plan to reveal patients' secrets

The Observer
March 3, 2002
by Antony Barnett,
Public Affairs Editor

Doctors could be fined up to 5,000 if they refuse to hand over patients' confidential medical records to drug companies and other organisations under controversial plans being put forward by Ministers.

The proposals, which could result in a patient's most intimate secrets being passed to health authorities, local councils and medical researchers without their consent, have provoked outrage among health groups which accuse the Government of 'sounding the death knell to medical confidentiality'.

Dr Richard Nicholson, editor of the Bulletin of Medical Ethics, said: 'The Prime Minister won't tell us whether his son has had the MMR jab, but seems happy to push forward legislation that drives a coach and horses through the privacy of the rest of us. These proposals threaten to break the ancient bond of trust - between the patient and doctor.'

Marion Chester, of the Association of Community Health Councils, said: 'These regulations are in breach of human rights law and data protection law.'

The new rules have emerged from Section 60 of the Health and Social Care Act, which was rushed through Parliament last year. The Health Secretary published a consultative document outlining the new regulations and hopes to introduce them this Easter.

The proposals give the Health Secretary power to order a doctor to hand over confidential medical records without a patient's consent if it is thought to be 'in the public interest'. If a doctor refuses, the Minister can fine him 5,000.

The Department of Health says the information is needed for medical research, to check clinical efficiency and to protect public health. But health campaigners warn the new guidelines risk revealing personal information, such as whether patients have had sexually transmitted diseases, abortions or are being treated for serious illnesses.

This information could be passed to a large number of organisations, from social services and housing departments to private healthcare groups. Benefits, prison and police records could be linked to health records without patients' consent.

One concern is that information could be sold onto pharmaceutical companies. Drug firms then would target individuals who they believe could benefit from their products.


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