Supplementary memorandum submitted by
Department of Health
At the hearing on Tuesday 20 November 2007,
I undertook to provide a note about the way in which Health Authorities
were handling correspondence from Members of Parliament about
their constituents' health affairs. In particular, the Chair asked
why Health Authorities had, in his experience, recently begun
to seek written confirmation before replying that patients had
given their consent to information being provided in response
to letters from Members of Parliament.
I have reviewed the guidance currently in issue
to the NHS and can confirm that the document "ConfidentialityNHS
Code of Practice" advises that
"There is a balance to be drawn between
ensuring that a patient has understood and properly consented
to a disclosure of information and needlessly obstructing an investigation.
Careful consideration of any written authorisation and prompt
action are key, eg where an MP states, in writing, that s/he has
a patient's consent for disclosure this may be accepted without
further resort to the patient."
The guidance is designed to ensure that patient
confidentiality is protected. Inclusion in correspondence of a
reference to the fact that the constituent had given their consent
to the matter in question being raised by their Member of Parliament,
would help avoid the need for further checks to be made.