Family doctors to shun national database of patients’ records

Nearly two-thirds of family doctors are poised to boycott the government’s scheme to put the medical records of 50 million NHS patients on a national electronic database, a Guardian poll reveals today.

With suspicion rife across the profession that sensitive personal data could be stolen by hackers and blackmailers, the poll found 59% of GPs in England are unwilling to upload any record without the patient’s specific consent.

Three-quarters of family doctors said medical records would become less secure when they are put on a database that will eventually be used by NHS and social services staff throughout England. Half thought the records would be vulnerable to hackers and unauthorised access by officials outside the NHS. A quarter feared bribery or blackmail of people with access to the records and 21% suspected that social services staff would not adhere to the confidentiality rules.

The poll of more than 1,000 doctors was conducted by Medix, a healthcare online research organisation previously used by the Department of Health to test medical opinion. It found GPs are increasingly concerned about the department’s plan to automatically upload the records of everyone who does not register an objection.

{59% of British family doctors are unwilling to upload any medical records into the national health service (NHS) database without consent. And British consumers have the right to opt-out of having their records uploaded into the NHS database. In the US, only 20% of doctors even use electronic records systems in their offices compared with 100% of British doctors. But US consumers have no rights to control or stop disclosures of their personal health data from doctors’ offices or other places that hold or store their data. Americans’ electronic health records can be data mined, used, or sold by over 4 million health-related businesses and government agencies. Clearly today US doctors and patients are far less aware of the privacy risks posed by electronic health systems than doctors and patients in the UK. ~ Dr. Deborah Peel, Patient Privacy Right}

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