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Health and Social Care (Control of data processing) Bill going for Assembly debate today

The Law Centre welcomes second stage consideration of the Health and Social Care (Control of data processing) Bill today. This is an important piece of legislation with the policy objective of making provision for the control of data processing in relation to health and social care.

The functioning of the health and social care system in Northern Ireland requires the processing of confidential information relating to individual patients and service users for reasons other than the direct provision of care and treatment to those individuals. Examples of such processing include: auditing the quality of service provision; service planning; billing of organisations providing services to H&SC under contract; and identifying and monitoring the health and social needs of the population of Northern Ireland. There has been a long term legislative gap in Northern Ireland with respect to such processing (Westminster legislated to address this gap in the Health and Social Care Act 2001).

The Explanatory Memorandum makes clear the important policy intent of the Bill: “Providing a clear statutory framework, and robust and stringent safeguards, which will enable the use of health and social care information which identifies individuals to be used for medical or social care purposes which are designed to benefit health and social care, or achieve some other tangible benefit that might reasonably be described as a public good, without the consent of the individuals whose information may be used.”

The Law Centre welcomes the introduction of this important legislation and is supportive of its general principles. We have some concerns about achieving the right balance which needs to be struck in the details between the public interest in the protection of confidentiality and the public interest in the efficient and effective provision of health and social care. We believe that these concerns can be addressed through Assembly scrutiny and amendment of the Bill as entered.

More information on the Law Centre's views on the Bill here: http://www.lawcentreni.org/Publications/Policy-Responses/LCNI-response-to-Consultation-on-use-of-HSC-information-for-secondary-purposes.pdf 

Or you can contact Colin Harper, Assistant Director (Mental Health and Community Care Policy)  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  for more information on the Law Centre's position.

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