Helen Wilkinson

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:10 pm on 16 June 2005.

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Photo of Caroline Flint Caroline Flint Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health) 6:10, 16 June 2005

I understand that they will. The hon. Gentleman referred to a sealed envelope. I understand that the sealed envelope will be opened only when health professionals are convinced that not doing so would put the patient's health at risk. The Caldicott guardian, who is a senior clinician in a trust responsible for confidentiality, will decide in those circumstances if the patient needs to be informed, but patients can ask at any time to know who has looked at their record.

The right to have inaccurate data rectified or erased, or to have any concerns about the processing of data seriously considered, is enshrined in statute. We are currently considering how such concerns can be practically addressed. We recognise that a transparent process needs to be established for people with concerns, and clear and applicable criteria for dealing with requests. It is not a simple matter, as there are significant medico-legal implications in deleting health information, even where it is incorrect, if someone has relied on it to make a decision. Part of the reason for that, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman will understand, is to protect the patient from people who might want to change records that could have implications in the future if the patient wanted to complain about their treatment or about how they were treated in the health service.

I also need to make the important point that, should people choose not to be part of the joined-up care records system, that will not only constrain how the NHS can help them but prevent the NHS from learning and improving on how it manages the care of others with similar conditions. That is not in order for people to know who the individual is, but to look at the case management of people with serious illnesses and diseases. We are determined to engage the public in understanding the benefits, both personal and system-wide, of the electronic care record and the way in which it will lead to a more efficient NHS, improve the quality of care and increase choice. That is why we published the care record guarantee.

I hope that my remarks will be of some assistance to the hon. Gentleman, to whom I will reply on any matters that I have been unable to deal with. I also hope that what I have said tonight has been a real opportunity to outline, in a public forum, some of the reasons why we are moving in this direction and how seriously we take the issues of confidentiality in the new system.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at twenty-one minutes past Six o'clock.