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Plans to hand over NHS data to police sparks warning from government adviser

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Plans to force the NHS to share confidential data with police across England are “very problematic” and could see patients giving false information to GPs, the government’s data watchdog has warned.

In her first interview, Dr Nicola Byrne, the national data guardian for England told The Independent she has serious concerns over Home Office plans to impose a responsibility on the NHS to share patient data with police which she said “sets aside” the duty of confidentiality for clinicians.

She also warned that emergency powers brought in to allow the sharing of data to help tackle the spread of Covid-19 could not run on indefinitely after they were extended to March 2022.

She also told The Independent she had raised concerns with the government over clauses in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which is going through the House of Lords later this month. The legislation could impose NHS bodies to disclose private patient data to police to prevent serious violence and crucially sets aside a duty of confidentiality on clinicians collecting information when providing care.

Dr Byrne said doing so could “erode trust and confidence, and deter people from sharing information and even from presenting for clinical care”.

She added that it was not clear what exact information would be covered by the bill: “The case isn’t made why as to why that is necessary. These things need to be debated openly and in public.”

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Source: The Independent, 10 October 2021

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