NHS England has refuted claims that a “backdoor” to care.data could be accessed by the police during investigations.
Late last week the Guardian reported that police would be able to access health records from the Health and Social Care Information Centre’s (HSCICs) database even if patients had pulled out.
In the past police would have needed to go through a GP, but former shadow home secretary David Davis said there would be no need to use even a warrant in the new system.
Care.data records include details of mental health conditions, drugs prescribed, and smoking and drinking habits.
The system will hold data from GP records and will be linked to hospital records.
Tim Kelsey, NHS England’s director for patients and information said that the Guardian article had brought an increase in public awareness but that “it’s vital this debate is based on facts”.
He said: “There are no ‘backdoors’ to this information. There is absolutely no change to how police can access individual GP records as a result of the programme to upgrade how NHS data is collected.
“For cases about an individual, police would still go to the hospital or GP practice rather than the HSCIC and that organisation would act in accordance with the requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998 (requests made using the s29 exemption for ‘Crime and Taxation’) and the Department of Health NHS Confidentiality Code of Practice.”
Davis, who established the existence of these "backdoors" in a parliamentary question answered by health services minister Dan Poulter, said he had "no problems with the data being used for licensed medical research, but when we have police accessing from a database that people have opted out from, and companies being able to buy this data, I think we need to have a debate about whether my property, which are my patient records, can be sold and used"
Phil Booth of medConfidential, which campaigns on medical privacy, told the Guardian: "This is precisely the danger when you create a giant database of highly sensitive information about people – all sorts of other people want to go rifling through it, including the government."