NHS Database: Harvie Welcomes Government Climbdown

Scottish Green MSPs today (3 March) welcomed confirmation from the Scottish Government that plans to open up the NHS Central Register to other public bodies have been dropped.

Green MSPs had warned that data security, privacy and civil liberties were at serious risk and had challenged Scottish Ministers over the proposal.

Patrick Harvie MSP, Scottish Greens co-convener, said:

“Allowing wider public sector access to data from the NHS central register sounded like an ID database in all but name. It's good to see the Scottish Government backing down.

"Greens argued that there are better ways of providing medical data without breaching privacy. We look forward to the Government consulting on a new way forward."

In response to parliamentary question S5W-07384 from Clare Haughey, SNP MSP for Rutherglen, Finance Secretary Derek Mackay says:

"Ministers have listened carefully to the arguments made during the consultation on proposed amendments to the LEARS Act Regulations, and have concluded that it would not be appropriate to broaden the range of bodies prescribed in legislation who can share data with the National Health Service Central Register, even subject to strong controls. Ministers therefore do not intend to take forward the amendments to this effect originally proposed.

"Ministers do believe that it is desirable that a member of the public, who wants to access public services online, can be given the chance to demonstrate their identity easily – and be confident that no-one else is able to pretend to be them, and that their privacy is guaranteed. This becomes ever more important as the Scottish Government takes on new powers, prepares to deliver new services, and aims to make these services as convenient, accessible and user-centred as possible.

"Ministers therefore intend to work with stakeholders, privacy interests and members of the public to develop a robust, secure and trustworthy mechanism by which an individual member of the public can demonstrate their identity. Any such mechanism will have to be entirely consistent with the Scottish Government’s Privacy Principles, so that members of the public can be confident that their privacy is being protected."

Background to the issue: 
Greens call for privacy assessment of NHS database, March 2015