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Information kept from GPs over data-sharing fears

23 March 2009

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New mothers are keeping symptoms of postnatal depression from GPs over fears that their children may be taken away once social services get hold of the information, a study claims.

The statement came as researchers warn that a quarter of major public sector databases are fundamentally flawed and almost certainly break the law.

A report by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust claims that Britain’s “database state” puts children at risk and wastes billions of pounds a year. It says that data sharing could actually harm vulnerable people, including children, by leading to discrimination and stigmatisation.

Research looked into 46 major government databases and identified 11 – including a planned index of all children in England – that were “almost certainly” illegal under human rights or data protection law and should be scrapped.

The report said there needed to be an urgent “radical” change in the public-sector culture to focus on putting people first.

Coauthor Professor Ross Anderson of Cambridge University said: “Britain’s database state has become a financial, ethical and administrative disaster, which is penalising some of the most vulnerable members of our society.”

Copyright © Press Association 2009

Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust