To Provide You with Treatment
Doctors need to make notes about any diagnosis, test results, treatments including drugs prescriptions, and other information that you may provide, that seems relevant to the treatment of your condition. We need to keep this information in order to provide proper care for you (for later treatment, or if you should be seen by another doctor) and to allow others to check the treatment that you have received.
Nurses and other health professionals also need access to these records, and will add their own notes, as part of the overall healthcare provision. Secretaries, receptionists, and other clerical staff need access to some of your records in order to do administrative tasks, such as: booking appointments and communicating with you and other parts of the NHS.
Your doctor may also need to provide information under certain Acts of Parliament (e.g. the Communicable Diseases Act 1978, which is necessary to prevent the outbreak of certain highly contagious diseases) to protect you and others.
The Health Service
In order to manage the NHS, some restricted information concerning treatments, drugs prescribed, numbers of patients seen etc. is needed, and hospitals and general practices must provide this information in returns to various central bodies. This information has personal details such as your name and address removed wherever possible. It is necessary from time to time to check these returns to prevent fraud as part of the NHS’s statutory obligations. This may result in your being contacted by an NHS Fraud Office to see if you will consent to your records being checked. Only if you provide your consent will the auditors be allowed to access your records.
Some medical files are needed to teach student clinicians. Without such materials, new doctors and nurses would be not be properly prepared to treat you.
We need to be able to plan ahead about treatments, patient numbers, etc., but this uses summary information, not personal information.
Some medical research will require your direct involvement (especially if taking part in clinical trials) in which case the circumstances will be fully explained to you, and your express consent required. If you do not consent, then you will not be included in the trial.
Other researchers only require access to medical statistics, and can greatly improve our understanding of health, and how to treat patients more effectively. Generally, researchers only need information about groups of people, so that no individual information is apparent. In some cases, they need individual records, but wherever we can we will provide these in an anonymous form (so individuals cannot be identified). Sometimes, researchers need access to individual medical files. We will contact you first for your consent (and before this the researchers must present their case before an Ethics Committee to check that their research is appropriate and worthwhile). Rarely, it may not be practicable (or even possible) to contact individuals for their consent, in which case the researchers must make their case before a Confidentiality Committee to show that there is enough benefit to the public at large to justify this.
How do we manage your information?
We need to be able to move electronic information from system to system, extracting the data and modifying it for the next system. Occasionally, tests will need to be made on the data to check that it has been transferred correctly. This will only be done under carefully controlled conditions and all employees and contractors will be under strict contractual obligations to protect your confidentiality.