Posted by: Nicholas Swetenham | February 17, 2009

The end of confidentiality?

The Coroners in Justice Bill, which has had its second reading in the House of Commons, contains a clause (152) that would allow the sharing of data between ministries.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the British Medical Association, said the profession was “extremely concerned” about legislation tabled by Jack Straw, the justice secretary, which would allow the Department of Health to share information on NHS databases with other ministries and private companies.


I would provide with links to alternative viewpoints (Times, Telegraph, Mail, BBC) but unfortunately no other news source among the press clippings that the BMA’s Press Office sent me yesterday or today covered this important story. Instead they carried anti-NHS stories about cancelled operations and wasted money.

This measure would mean that a doctor could no longer honestly say to a patient that the information we collect about them is held in confidence. While it is true that there are exceptions to confidentiality where a doctor is aware  that a patient may cause harm to others or is involved in terrorist activity, this is a vast expansion of the access the government will have to confidential medical information.

I wrote to David Howarth, the MP for Cambridge, via before the second reading and have now received an official reply from him in the post. As Shadow Justice Secretary for the LibDems he has been very actively opposing this measure.

If you also disagree with this measure, please go to and follow the instructions to send your MP a short e-mail.

***Update 01/03/2008***
It has recently come to my attention that if this bill were to pass it could be challenged in the courts; it potentially violates statutes law: both the European Convention on Human Rights Article 8 (Legally enforceable in the UK since the Human Rights Act 1998) and the Data Protection Act 1998.


  1. […] March 3, 2009 · No Comments The BMA issued a press release yesterday on the Coroners and Justice Bill which I discussed 2 weeks ago. […]

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