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Health over privacy

Doctors' records could be used against your will

The powers of the Human Rights and Data Protection Acts (HRA and DPA) to protect your private information may become seriously weakened if Parliament passes draft health care regulations today.

The regulations, if approved, will give civil servants, researchers and other approved persons the power to access people’s personal medical records, even if they have specifically requested that their information be kept private.

"We are hugely concerned by this legislation, as is the Department of Health," said Simon Williams, assistant director of the Patients Association.

Under the DPA and HRA a public authority can only override a person's right to privacy if they are doing so in the interest of 'public safety or the protection of health'.

"[The draft regulation] completely bypasses people's protection under the Data Protection Act, and indeed the Human Rights Act, simply because the arguments from the health authorities were so strong," said Williams.

But the proposals, put forward by government health secretary, Alan Milburn, were apparently designed to 'benefit legitimate cancer and infectious diseases research and health service planning' and for 'the protection of health'.

Milburn was unavailable for comment.

"These proposals will completely undermine the doctor patient confidentiality and encourage people to lie and withhold information for fear of it being passed on to a third party," added Williams.

GPs who refuse to hand over private information face a £5,000 fine.

The full proposals can be found here.

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