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Most doctors plan to dodge health database

Fear confidentiality breaches and poor security

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The majority of family doctors have said they will shun a government plan to stuff a database full of all our medical records.

According to a poll conducted by the Guardian, 59 per cent of GPs said they would not put records on the so-called spine without the consent of a patient, and fully three-quarters say records will be less secure once they are made available to NHS and social service staff on the central database.

Fear that the records might be accessed by unscrupulous or unauthorised people were at the heart of GP's caution. The poll found 21 per cent had concerns that social services staff would not follow the rules of doctor-patient confidentiality, and a quarter said they were worried about bribery or blackmail of people with access to records.

The newspaper reports that one of the doctors polled said: "Patients' confidential records will undoubtedly be at risk in the brave new world... I look forward to the innermost secrets of our politicians, actors and personalities being revealed to all and sundry."

Another told the researchers: "Our current record confidentiality has been breached by a local primary care trust manager and we only found out by accident. I cannot trust the security of a national scheme."

A similar poll, a year ago, found that just 38 per cent of GPs would seek consent from their patients before uploading their medical histories to the spine.

But the government's concession that patients should be able to block the upload seems to have struck a chord with the medical profession. Now doctors say they are more concerned about so-called "implied consent", the presumption that anyone who does not object is assumed to be happy to have their records uploaded, and only 11 per cent of doctors said they were likely to comply with government requirements to upload records.

Despite the worries of the medical profession, the general public doesn't seem to have too much of a problem with the idea of a centrally-managed database. In trials in Bolton earlier this year, a mere one per cent of patients elected not to have their so-called "summary" records added to the spine.

These records contain such info as details of allergies and any medication the patient is currently prescribed. The government is keen to persuade GPs that having this information centrally available will save lives.

Both polls were conducted by Medix, a research firm that has also been used by the Department of Health to gauge opinion among medical workers. ®

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