Select Committee on Home Affairs Written Evidence


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 "Confidentiality—NHS 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.

November 2007

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