Reply to the Campaign’s letter concerning patient’s rights and the Data Protection Act 1998.
Leeds LS2 7UE
The Campaign for Freedom of Information
16 Baldwins Gardens
London EC1N 7RJ
19 June 2000
Dear Mr Frankel
Access to manual health records
You wrote to Chris Warncke on 16 May raising a number of concerns about the differences between the Data Protection Act 1998 and the largely repealed Access to Health Records Act. As I have policy responsibility for this subject, Chris passed the letter on to me. I am sorry that it has taken me so long to do so.
The issues that concerned you were the loss of the patient’s right to have notes appended to records, the charges levied for access and the longer response period for data controllers to comply with requests for access to recently recorded information. As you note in your letter, it was the Home Office’s intention to replicate the provisions of the existing Access to Health Records Act 1990 as fully as proved practicable within the new legislation. In the event, it did not prove to be a straightforward exercise. Certain aspects of the 1990 Act, including the existing charging regime, could not be reproduced within the new legislation.
It is not intended however that patients should suffer from the changes, and whilst the Data Protection Act 1998 actually strenthens individual rights in many respects, we are keen to ensure that the rights that previously existed are not lost.
We are therefore proposing to issue guidance that clearly outlines the standards that we expect the NHS to adhere to. This is will include recording disagreements with the content of manual records, rapid response to access requests and fees being determined on a cost recovery basis only. I very much regret the delay in the drafting of this guidance but hope that it will be finalised and published shortly. I am not aware of any particular instances where the NHS has applied the changed arrangements to the detriment of patients and hope that the publication of clear guidance will prevent this from occuring.
A final point. In the Autumn, there will be a major review of the new charging regime and I will ensure that your views are sought in the associated consultation process.
Information Policy Unit