§ The Countess of Mar
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether under the Data Protection Act 1998 a hospital may release to a journalist confidential documents relating to patients, including clinical findings and descriptions of medical procedures on children who can be identified; and, if not, whether it is in the public interest for the Department of Health website "MMR the facts" to include a link to the website of the Sunday Times journalist Brian Deer. [HL364]
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner)
While the Data Protection Act 1998 does not prevent clinicians sharing information for necessary medical purposes, the confidential nature of health data prevents them being disclosed more widely unless: identifying information has been removed or anonymised; the individuals concerned have given their consent to disclosure; there is a statutory obligation to disclose or a court order requiring disclosure—it is in response to a court order; there is an overriding public interest (for example to protect public health).
The "MMR the facts" website has been put together by the Immunisation Information team at the Department of Health. The information team makes available a range of materials designed to provide both parents and health professionals with the latest information on immunisation. As is common practice, it provides links to other sources of information that will help inform the public interest and debate in the topic. As noted on the site, the department is not responsible for the content or reliability of linked websites, and linking should not be taken as endorsement of any kind.