GDPR long overdue?

We’ve all seen so many articles and commentaries about GDPR in recent weeks that the tendency may be to ‘switch off’.  Wrong!  Those of us who work daily with highly confidential medical records – as our pagination service does – have a duty of care to the patient to maintain confidentiality by reducing the risk of a data breach.  The statutory duty which has existed so far has become outdated, overtaken by technical advances, and in practice has not always been effective.  Every day in our work we see ‘wrong patient’ records – medical records which are unrelated to the patient whose records we are ordering, and should never have been disclosed by the healthcare provider.  Records have in the past been sent out to experts, pagination services and costs draftsmen whose facilities are not secure and where the patient has not given informed consent (to use a medical analogy).

 

At Clinco, we decided some time ago to disassociate ourselves from  this sort of practice.  We didn’t need GDPR to motivate us – we wanted to know we had done everything possible to keep confidential information secure.  We were the first medical records pagination service to become ISO27001 certified last year, and we are proud to be leading the way on such an important area.  We’ve seen firms of solicitors realise that they too should be making data protection a priority and we’re pleased to be working with firms who have the same ethos that we do.

‘First do no harm’ – but what when things go wrong?

We’ve seen a couple of very high profile cases in the media recently, where mistakes made by doctors have had tragic consequences.  In the case of 6 year old Jack Adcock, paediatrician Dr H Bawa-Garba was criticised (and prosecuted) for errors made leading to his death.   In the other case, 5 year old Ellie-May Clark died from an asthma attack after being turned away unseen by her GP for being a few minutes late for an emergency appointment.

Both cases resulted in the death of a young child.  It’s beyond words how terribly sad these cases are, and the lives of the families will never be the same after such loss.  It’s made immeasurably worse that these deaths may well have been avoidable.  No one could presume to know what the families have been through, and have to face for the future.

Whilst not for a moment forgetting their experience and these young lost lives, should we not spare a thought and some sympathy for the doctors involved?

The reality is that many medical decision-makers are making countless life or death judgments every day.   How many of us are taking that responsibility in our daily lives?  Which of us has never made a professional mistake?  As a former claimant lawyer I believe patients should receive competent care and that those providing it should absolutely be accountable.  However, I am also grateful to those who are prepared to put their lifetime peace of mind on the line by making difficult decisions on matters where the consequences will frequently be life-changing.  Struck off or not, an event of this sort can be career-ending and devastating on a personal level for the person responsible.  Let’s see some compassion for those doing a difficult job, often in compromised circumstances.