Joint Committee On Human Rights Eighth Report

Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Bill

22. In our view, the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Bill[27] raises no human rights issue requiring to be drawn to the attention of either House at this time.

Community Care (Delayed Discharges etc.) Bill

23. We have reported on the human rights implications of the Community Care (Delayed Discharges etc.) Bill[28] on three previous occasions.[29] In our Seventh Report, we drew attention to a risk that NHS bodies might need to disclose personal and medical information about patients to a social services authority without the patient's consent in order to allow the social services authority to conduct an assessment of the patient's need for community services on discharge from hospital, as required by clause 4 of the Bill. We recommended that the Bill should require NHS bodies to adopt an appropriate procedure for balancing the rights of patients against other rights and interests in accordance with ECHR Article 8.2, in order to protect the privacy-related rights of non-consenting patients under Article 8.1.[30]

24. Following the publication of our Seventh Report, the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Jacqui Smith MP, wrote to our Chair.[31] The Minister explains that the Government does not consider that the Bill would allow NHS bodies to reveal sensitive personal or medical information about a patient without the patient's consent. The Bill would not require the NHS body to reveal such information when giving notice to a social services authority, under clause 2 of the Bill, that a patient could be discharged if given appropriate support through community services. If the social services authority sought further information, the patient would be free to refuse to co-operate. When considering whether to release information on such a patient to a social services authority, the NHS body would have to comply with the requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998 and with the Human Rights Act 1998, including Article 8 of the ECHR. The Government therefore does not consider that an amendment to the Bill is necessary.

25. The result is that clause 4(2)(a) of the Bill appears to impose an absolute obligation on a social services authority to conduct an assessment once it has been given a notice by the NHS body under clause 2, but the social services authority would have no power to obtain the information it would need (which would inevitably include information about the patient's medical condition, personal circumstances and medical prognosis) in order to allow it to decide what services the patient would need after being discharged from hospital in order to be safe. We draw this to the attention of each House.

Private Members' Bills

Bills raising no human rights issues

26. In our view, the following Private Members' Bills raise no issues requiring to be drawn to the attention of either House at this time—

Sustainable Energy Bill[32]

Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Deceased Fathers) Bill[33]

Legal Deposit Libraries Bill[34]

Government Powers (Limitation) Bill[35]

Food Labelling Bill[36]

Prevention of Driving under the Influence of Drugs (Road Traffic Amendment) Bill[37]

Harbours Bill [HL][38]

Prevention of Driving under the Influence of Drugs Bill [HL][39]

Bills with only positive human rights implications

27. The Bills noted in paragraphs 28 and 29, below, would, if enacted, help to improve protection for human rights in different ways, and do not appear to us to interfere with human rights in any way. In our view, they do not require to be drawn to the attention of either House on human rights grounds at this time.

27   House of Commons Bill 70 Back

28   HL Bill 42 Back

29   Joint Committee on Human Rights, First Report of 2002-03, HL Paper 24/HC 191, p 12, paras. 27-29; Third Report, HL Paper 41/HC 375, pp 21-23, paras. 49-58; Seventh Report, HL Paper 74/HC 547, pp 6-10, paras. 3-14 Back

30   HL Paper 74/HC 547, paras. 11-14 Back

31   The letter is published as an appendix to this Report, Ev 2-3 Back

32   House of Commons Bill 20, Mr Brian White MP Back

33   House of Commons Bill 25, Mr Stephen McCabe MP, with Explanatory Notes prepared by the Department of Health Back

34   House of Commons Bill 26, Mr Chris Mole MP, with Explanatory Notes prepared by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport Back

35   House of Commons Bill 29, Mr John Bercow MP Back

36   House of Commons Bill 33, Mr Stephen O'Brien MP Back

37   House of Commons Bill 72, Mr Nick Hawkins MP Back

38   House of Lords Bill 24, Lord Berkeley Back

39   House of Lords Bill 44, Lord Dixon-Smith Back

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