The NHS detailed care record and the secondary uses service are among two public sector databases deemed “almost certainly illegal” in a report by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust.

The trust, which funds campaigns to promote civil liberties, warned that a quarter of public sector databases appear to fall foul of human rights or data protection law.

Privacy problems

The report, which assesses 46 databases from different government departments, says more than half of public sector databases have “significant problems with privacy or effectiveness and could fall foul of a legal challenge”.

The trust found that fewer than 15 per cent of the public databases assessed are effective, proportionate and necessary.

Red ratings

The NHS detailed care record and the secondary uses service are both given a red rating by the trust, signifying they is almost certainly illegal under human rights or data protection law.

The NHS summary care record is given an amber rating, meaning the trust believes it has significant problems and may be unlawful.

The report says databases rated as red should be scrapped or redesigned immediately. Amber databases should be independently reviewed.

DH response

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “It is simply wrong to claim that the summary care record and other aspects of the national programme for IT are unlawful. This report is full of basic errors and below the standards usually expected for a Rowntree report.

“Neither patient consent nor confidentiality are being overridden. The aim of the national programme for IT is to provide information to doctors and nurses which will save lives and improve the quality of care. Central to it is patient consent and the right of patients to opt out.

“The report’s comments on the Secondary Uses Service are also ill informed and inaccurate. We recently consulted widely on this specifically to ensure that patient consent and confidentiality are protected and that the public is aware of uses that any data is put to.”

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