Legal concerns may block data sharing

Proposals in the children’s green paper to use children’s NHS
numbers as unique identifiers to enable the exchange of information
between agencies and authorities could be hindered by legal
concerns, it was revealed this week.

Bolton Primary Care Trust, which is involved with one of the
government’s 10 identification, referral and tracking pilot
projects, is considering whether it could be acting unlawfully if
it shares information with Bolton Council as a part of the project.

The council has asked the PCT to put the name, address, date of
birth and gender of all the children it has contact with on an IT
database that would be accessible to agencies involved, such as
social services.

But the PCT is concerned whether it has the statutory power to
provide such information. It is considering legal advice that there
is a “respectable argument” for the details to be passed over. But
Bolton’s IRT project manager John Morrissy said “this is an
opinion” and called on the government to provide a legal framework
to improve the situation.

Andrew Cozens, president of the Association of Directors of Social
Services, said the issues raised in Bolton could hinder the green
paper’s proposal. “It could be a fundamental problem given that the
unique identifier is probably going to be the NHS number,” he

Kensington and Chelsea’s IRT pilot project has put plans for a
similar database on hold following Bolton’s legal advice (news,
page 9, 23 October).

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