Clause 19

Part of Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:15 pm on 13 July 2006.

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Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Shadow Minister (Children) 2:15, 13 July 2006

These are, again, probing amendments, but I hope that we will not have to probe for quite so long this time before we establish whether they are required. Amendment No. 142 concerns people who have the “opportunity to have access” to the health records of a vulnerable adult. The measure should not be limited to health records because, after all, what constitutes a health record? Does it cover only information that is provided by a GP or specialist? What about forms of counselling that do not, strictly speaking, constitute medical or health treatment? What about other records containing detailed information about a vulnerable person’s family background, or traumatic events that have happened to them, such as domestic sexual abuse?

A paedophile could use records of a vulnerable person’s past traumatic experiences or difficult domestic time as a child to exploit a chink in their armour and ingratiate himself or herself with that vulnerable person. Those are not health records, but if people can gain access to those sorts of records, which I have termed as “personal”, surely they too should be included. I believe that “health records” is too narrow a definition, and I would be grateful for the Minister’s response as to whether more extensive personal records could be just as useful, or even more useful, to a potential abuser who could use that information to abuse a vulnerable adult.

The second amendment also concerns the definition of health. I know that the Minister will come straight back and tell me that it is not necessary because it is covered in whatever paragraph such definitions are covered. Hospital services are defined through six different categories: a national health service trust,an NHS foundation trust, a primary care trust, an independent hospital, an independent clinic and an independent medical agency. At least this part of the Bill has explicit references to the independent sectors, which is part of the point that I was getting at earlier. However, it refers only to establishments—in effect, a hospital, clinic or medical agency

“within the meaning of that section”,

which again is rather vague. Surely what should be covered is an independent health provider. It is the person who is going to do the damage if they are so minded, rather than the establishment in which they are contracted to work.

The amendment is designed to probe whether—perhaps this will be in schedule 3—all independent personnel are covered. We want to know that  independent personnel are not covered just by virtue of the fact that they are working in an independent hospital, an independent clinic or through an independent medical agency, because many such people will be working in the homes of vulnerable people. That is what we are getting at.