Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Press release from the Information Commissioner

For immediate release

Date: 27 February 2006

Making data protection simpler: advice for professionals

The Information Commissioner’s Office is today publishing simple advice for professionals, including teachers, social workers, doctors and nurses, about how they record professional opinions and what to do when these are challenged under the Data Protection Act.

David Smith, Deputy Information Commissioner, said: “Professionals who record an opinion about someone – for instance a doctor recording an opinion about a patient’s health or a teacher recording an opinion about a pupil’s abilities - are strongly advised to study this new good practice note carefully. It is designed to help them in their work.”

This good practice note is being published in response to requests to the Information Commissioner’s Office for further clarification on this matter. The note provides examples of good practice and makes clear that the record should show that it is a professional’s opinion, not a fact. The record should provide enough information to allow it to be interpreted correctly. The good practice note also provides guidance on the importance of recording information that is accurate and relevant, and outlines for how long an opinion should be kept.

One example in the good practice note concerns medical records: a patient gets a copy of his medical file from his GP and disputes an opinion recorded in it. The solution is for the surgery to explain that the record must be kept as a true record of the doctor’s professional opinion but to include the patient’s comments clearly on the file. If the patient also provides convincing evidence that the record includes incorrect factual information then the correct information should be recorded. However a record of the error may need to be kept, for example if the patient has received treatment on the basis of the erroneous information.

David Smith added: “The Data Protection Act gives everyone a right to see information that is held about them including any opinions. Professionals need to be aware of this and understand, what action is required when an individual challenges one of their opinions.”

The advice on recording professional opinions is part of a series of good practice notes produced by the Information Commissioner’s Office to make data protection simpler. To download a copy go to www.ico.gov.uk

If you need more information, please contact the Information Commissioner’s press office on 020 7282 2960 or visit the website at: www.ico.gov.uk


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