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Patient confidentiality concerns raised by Northern Ireland GPs

30 March 2009

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Concern over the confidentiality of patient information was raised at the annual conference of Northern Ireland Local Medical Committees yesterday (Sunday 29 March 2009).

Dr Brian Patterson, a GP from Portglenone and Chairman of the BMA’s Northern Ireland Council, said patients were alarmed that identifiable information, eg, names, address and dates of birth, were passed to MORI to undertake a nationwide patient satisfaction survey.

Dr Patterson said: “I was accused by two patients that I had personally handed over their details in order for them to be surveyed, 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.

He added: “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”.

GPs will now take these concerns to Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) officials as a result of the conference debate.

British Medical Association Northern Ireland