Portglenone doctor backs BMA calls on patient information safeguards

A prominent Portglenone doctor has backed calls for further safeguards to protect patient confidentiality.

Speaking at the annual conference of the British Medical Association, Portglenone GP Dr Brian Patterson noted that patient information is being increasingly accessed for differing purposes. But, he added: “We need to ensure that we know who has looked at which records and when so that only appropriate access is made.

“Of course sharing information can benefit patients, particularly with referrals to specialist services, but proper identity and access management systems must be in place to give appropriate access.

“Doctors and other staff who are not caring for a particular patient should generally have no legitimate interest in their medical records. Access to particular patient files should therefore normally be limited to those who have a legitimate current clinical relationship with the patient.

“I believe that these conditions are necessary to maintain appropriate confidentiality of patients’ medical records.”

BMA has previously highlighted concerns over private companies assessing patient records.

Dr Patterson continued: “I have been accused by two patients that I had personally handed over their details in order for them to be surveyed by government, and discussion with my colleagues has shown that complaints such as these were widespread.

“While information contained on a patient’s medical card can be used to administer services, this does not extend to allowing private companies to make use of the data. I would like to reassure patients throughout Northern Ireland that GPs take their role as data controllers very seriously, and do not pass on patient details to private companies. GPs are concerned that government is making identifiable patient data available for use by third parties”.

Conference agreed and supported the motion, which now becomes BMA policy.