Letters: NHS data safeguards

Letters: There are important legal and ethical safeguards that ensure patient confidentiality and never – as your article implied – casual or secret routes for commercial companies to break these rules

As an independent member of the Data Access Advisory Group, which provides independent scrutiny of the Health and Social Care Information Centre, I, with other members, have to review applications for anonymous information (Health firms can pay to see NHS patient data, 17 May). The group has to decide whether there is any risk that the data provided could be manipulated in order to reveal the identity of individual patients. If there is such a risk, the group refers the request to the Confidentiality Advisory Group in the Health Research Authority, where legally all such requests must be considered. In each case, we enter into strict agreements with those customers who have applied for information, to make sure they preserve people's privacy. I have never experienced confidential patient information being "up for sale". As a doctor (now retired from clinical practice), I know how important it is to respect patient confidentiality if we are to maintain the trust of our patients to provide us with all the information required to provide good care. There are important legal and ethical safeguards that ensure this and never – as your article implied – casual or secret routes for commercial companies to break these rules.
Patrick Coyle
Swansea

The GuardianTramp

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