[Press Release] MedConfidential comments on today’s #IPBill Report

EMBARGOED – SAME AS JOINT COMMITTEE REPORT: 09:30 on 11 Feb 2016. Copies will appear at https://medConfidential.org/news after that time


MedConfidential Comments on Medical Records and the Report of the Joint Committee on the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill.

The more scrutinisation the Bill receives, the less it stands up.

Individuals and information snared within Bulk Personal Datasets[1] “…may include, but is not limited to, personal information such as an individual’s religion, racial or ethnic origin, political views, medical condition, ***, sexual orientation, or any legally privileged, journalistic or otherwise confidential information [2]

Recommendation YY.e of the 2015 ISC report[2] said the bill should contain “Specific safeguards for certain individuals or categories of information – for example, UK nationals, legally privileged information, medical information etc”

It didn’t.

When asked whether medical records should be disavowed, The Home Office responded[3]

“this may provide those that wish to do us harm greater insight as to the limits of the agencies’ capabilities”.

Without a publicly made case, the Joint Committee report states “the lack of that detail makes it hard for Parliament to give the power sufficient scrutiny.”[4]

In contrast, the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament, which may read any classified information they require to provide sufficient scrutiny, recommended:[5]
“B. Where additional protection is provided for sensitive professions, these safeguards must be applied consistently, no matter which investigatory power is used to obtain the information. The new legislation should be amended to rectify this inconsistency.
“F… The Committee considers that the acquisition, retention and examination of any Bulk Personal Dataset is sufficiently intrusive that it should require a specific warrant. We therefore recommend that Class Bulk Personal Dataset warrants are removed from the new legislation.”
To meet their recommendations from 2015, the ISC’s first recommendation from 2016 of a “single additional Part that addresses privacy safeguards and clearly sets out universal privacy protections which apply across the full range of investigatory powers” must also protect medical records. A discussion the Home Office has refused to have, and the Department of Health have so far ignored[6].


Phil Booth, coordinator of medConfidential said:

“The Home Office’s bluff has been called by Parliament. The Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament said in 2015 that there should be security safeguards for medical records, yet Theresa May just ignored them, and let the agencies make up their own rules.

“The ISC has said that if Theresa May wants to grab the entire nation’s medical history, she has to have specific grounds.

“It’s not enough to simply fear those who may wish harm, it is necessary to defend the values of our country. It seems Parliament has had to explain this to the Agencies and the Home Office yet again.

“Theresa May wants secret copies of everything because she’s afraid; Parliament wants privacy and transparency because we are a democracy. Privacy and security don’t have to be opposites, but we’ll see how David Cameron’s Government responds when it comes to the most private of NHS data.


  1. Bulk personal datasets are the Government’s term for large databases of personal information, such as medical records.
  1. Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament Report ‘Privacy and Security: A modern and transparent legal framework‘. March 2015 http://isc.independent.gov.uk/news-archive/12march2015 para 163(ii), p58.
  1. paragraph 403, Report of the Joint Committee on the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill
  1. Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament Report on draft Investigatory Powers Bill. http://isc.independent.gov.uk/committee-reports/special-reports
  1. “The Department [of Health] was asked to comment on the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill presented to Parliament in November 2015 and, at that time, did not consider that this would create any new powers that would require or permit the disclosure of confidential personal information by health and care bodies (on the basis that this is consolidating security agencies’ existing powers).” http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Lords/2016-01-25/HL5377/

medConfidential campaigns for confidentiality and consent in health and social care, seeking to ensure that every flow of data into, across and out of the NHS and care system is consensual, safe and transparent. Founded in January 2013, medConfidential is an independent, non-partisan organisation working with patients and medics, service users and care professionals.

For further information or for immediate or future interview, please contact Sam Smith or Phil Booth, coordinators of medConfidential – coordinator@medconfidential.org