National Data Guardian for Health and Social Care

Part of Health and Social Care (National Data Guardian) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:25 am on 6th June 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Chair, Finance Committee (Commons), Chair, Finance Committee (Commons) 9:25 am, 6th June 2018

Thank you, Dame Cheryl. I want to raise two small points. The first is slightly to tease the hon. Member for Wellingborough: I cannot imagine another Bill making its way through the House of Commons and the House of Lords about which he would be so casual when it came to the amount it might eventually cost. I normally think of him as the most robust challenger of any public expenditure, but I note that in the order of magnitude he is drifting by about 50%. When there is a Labour Government, I look forward to him applying exactly the same logic to all Labour legislation.

My serious point is about how this Bill relates to Members of Parliament, who are probably the single body of people not covered by the Bill, but who might be tangentially affected by it. People often come to us with complaints about their local health board—in my case, in Wales—or about their general practitioner or the provision of care in a care home, through the local authority or some private sector deliverer. We often have highly confidential information stored, almost as if we were a GP or a doctor; certainly to that degree of information. For that matter, that is also sometimes information that has been provided by other authorities such as the police.

Particularly in the light of recent developments on the general data protection regulation, it is obviously important that we ensure that we are abiding within the law and adopting best practice, but it would be a terrible shame if we ended up being unable to keep records relating to people who, to all intents and purposes, have come to us as constituents—almost as patients—and who would be rather surprised if we were to destroy the information we have kept about them. When they turn up seven years later, they expect us to remember every single case we have ever dealt with, or for that matter that our predecessor dealt with. I fully understand why it is right that when a Member of Parliament changes, things start all over again, but it would be crazy to adopt any kind of standard procedure of deleting, for every Parliament or every two or three years, material that could be important to the patient—the client, patient, customer, or constituent, however we want to term them.

Another important element of this relates primarily to the safety of our staff. Sometimes we deal with people who have major psychotic episodes during their life, or have mental health problems. I am not saying that just because someone has a mental health problem, it means they will be problematic, but it may be that when there are repeat visits to an MP’s office, it is useful to have kept the information for several years about the person who has come in through the door. Thus, for instance, if our staff have changed, the new staff will be aware of the potential problems that might exist in relation to an individual.

I hope that the Data Guardian will be able to provide advice to Members of Parliament as well. I know that is not in the Bill and is not its primary purpose, but it would be a mistake if the guardian were to operate in a way that did not take any cognisance of the relationship that Members of Parliament have with local health boards, and with the health service and care provision in general.