December 1st, 2006 at 15:29 UTC by Ross Anderson
The Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, has written a letter to all GPs and hospital medical directors telling them that if patients try to opt out of the central collection of their medical data, the Secretary of State must be told. This follows a campaign that I’ve been helping and that has attracted strong support – in the press, from GPs and from public opinion.
This letter orders GPs to break patient confidentiality – and apparently for the noble purpose of news management. I understand that at least one GP will be reporting Sir Liam to the General Medical Council. It is entirely up to the patient to decide whether to send an opt-out letter to their GP, to Ms Hewitt, or to both. It is not for a civil servant – even a very grand one like Sir Liam – to unilaterally override the wishes of those patients who decide to write to their GP but not to Ms Hewitt. (It’s also somewhat amusing as, only a month ago, officials were telling patients who tried to opt out that their GPs would decide whether to upload data.)