Police chief calls for direct access to your medical records (Wired UK)


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Police forces are seeking access to patient medical records
without an individual’s consent in order to help handle vulnerable
people.

According to Greater Manchester chief constable Sir Peter Fahy,
speaking to the Guardian, demands on forces have changed over the past
20 years to the point that vulnerable groups of people — whether
those with dementia, drug or alcohol addiction, mental health
problems or those who are victims of domestic abuse — account for
two thirds of police work.

Police should have powers, Fahy argues, to access GP and social
records to protect the vulnerable and obtain data out of hours,
when it might not be possible to get a court order — currently a
requirement for police seeking access to medical records. Having
this access would be useful for tracking down the next of kin for
those people who might suffer from, for example, Alzheimer’s. It
might also be useful to check out a patient’s history with drugs
before responding to the call.

He told the newspaper: “It would give us a deeper understanding of
those we are expected to help and their problems. The actions we
take would be much improved if we had a better understanding of
that history at the time we are called.”

According to his comments in the Guardian, Fahy went as
far as to suggest that doctors should be compelled to share the
records of victims of domestic violence — even if the patient has
refused to do so. He said: “There should be the ability to share
the information, against the woman’s wishes, to solve the problem,
without a criminal justice system approach.”

Doctors have already come to an agreement with police to breach their medical duty of confidentiality to
patients who own guns if they fear they have become so mentally ill
they may use their weapons on themselves or the public. But Fahy’s
comments seem to extend to a much broader patient base.

Set against a backdrop of public concern over the centralisation
of patient data through the Care.data scheme, this seems to represent another worrying
erosion of privacy of medical records. Care.data is an NHS England
initiative to take data from your GP records and upload them to
national Health and Social Care Information databases. The aim is
to combine this data with existing hospital records and other
social care information in order to provide a fuller picture of
care being delivered between different parts of the healthcare
system. The scheme was criticised for being poorly communicated,
lacking informed consent and running the risk of having patients
re-identified from supposedly anonymised or pseudonymised
data. 

Under the scheme, police would be able to bypass GPs and access
personal confidential data directly from HSCIC provided they had a
court order. If more powers are given to police, as suggested by
Fahy, they may have much easier direct access to the GP records of
every patients in England through the HSCIC’s centralised
databases.

The British Medical Association has come out against the idea,
saying that “the checks and balances in the current legal position
are satisfactory”.

Fahy may have a lot on his mind at the moment, which distracts
him from pushing for further police powers, since he has just been
served
with a criminal and gross misconduct notice
by the Independent
Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) following allegations made by a
whistleblower relating to an investigation into a suspected child
sex offender.

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12 August 2014 | 3:41 pm – Source: wired.co.uk

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