§ Mr. Chris Smith
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what arrangements are made by health authorities in England to allow patients to have access to their own medical records; what guidance he has issued on this matter; whether he proposes to take any steps to encourage them to allow greater access to such information held on automated and non-automated records; and whether he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Kenneth Clarke
It is good practice for health professionals — on whose judgement decisions about disclosure are based—to be as open and informative towards their patients as possible. If a professional were concerned about disclosing information in an individual case, it would be open to him to release the record to a medical practitioner of the patient's choice, who would make it available to the patient at his discretion. Our Department has issued advice on access to health records in the context of legal proceedings, in Health Circular (82)16.
The Data Protection Bill will create a general entitlement to access by individuals to automated personal 361W records held on them. Because unrestricted access to personal health records may not always be in a patient's best interests, the right of access to such records will be subject to modification by order of my right hon. Friend. We intend to undertake wide consultations on the possible content of an order. We are currently holding discussions with representatives of the health professions on the implications of the Data Protection Bill for health data in general, including subject access.
§ Mr. Chris Smith
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what arrangements are made by local authorities in England to allow individuals to have access to social services records about themselves; what guidance he has issued on this matter; whether he proposes to take any steps to encourage them to allow greater access to information held on automated and non-automated records; and whether he will make a statement.
§ Mr. John Patten
Local arrangements vary, but in a circular (LAC(83)14) sent to local authorities in August last year (copies of which are in the Library) the Department indicated that, subject to certain necessary safeguards, social services department clients who wished it should be given access to records about themselves. The Data Protection Bill proposes to create a general entitlement to access by individuals to automated personal records held on them; but this right would be subject to modification by order of the Secretary of State in cases where its application could prejudice the carrying out of social work.