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NHS set to be affected by revision to EU data privacy laws

The European Union (EU (opens in new tab)) is set to review and revise existing data privacy laws which is set to have an impact on how healthcare organisations manage and share personal data.

Earlier this month, the EU Council (opens in new tab) met and justice ministers proposed changes to a critical section of EU Data Protection Regulation (opens in new tab) that focuses on the NHS (opens in new tab).

The discussion included how special forms of data, including health and genetic data, should be managed and in what circumstances the NHS would need patient consent to process personal data.

EU Justice Ministers have now made a commitment to alleviate the burden of data sharing and introduce a more flexible legal framework across health and social care.

According to director of the NHS European Office Elisabetta Zanon, the need for professional confidentiality and secrecy for all those who handle confidential personal data has been acknowledged, but so has the need to share data across silos more effectively.

It has been decided that if data is needed for clinical purposes, for the provision of health or social care, for the treatment or management of health or social care systems and services and for public health services, organisations will be able to process this information without explicit consent from the patient.

Zanon claims that this is an important proposal as it would allow the NHS to be better placed to take decisive steps to break down the information barriers to how care is delivered across England.

Embracing Digital

“It would give more flexibility for information to be shared appropriately and confidentially in radical new care delivery options, as promised in the Five year Forward view,” Zanon wrote in a recent blog post (opens in new tab).

“It could also support some of the exciting national digital programmes bringing together hospital, GP, admin and audit data to support quality improvement, whole-system management and identification of patients who most need health and social care support,” she added.

Zanon notes that this is not the final stage in the process, but represents an important milestone and success story for NHS engagement at European level.