The Data Protection Act in the UK, is designed to protect the right of living identifiable people. The first Data Protection Act was passed in 1984, but it has been updated by The Data Protection Act of 1998. The later Act received Royal Assent in July 1998 and it is expected to be fully implemented by 24 October 2001. The 1984 Act was designed to protect the rights of individuals when information was stored about them on computer. The 1998 Act has extended the protection as it applies to information held not just in computer systems but also in some manual filing systems. Any information about living people held in a computer or in a manual filing system that is structured in such a way as to make it easy to extract information about particular individuals, is potentially covered by the legislation. All investigators storing personal data on computers, no matter how seemingly innocuous, must register under this Act. (For instance even a simple name and address file of all general practitioners in your Health Board should be registered.) Most universities and institutes have a data protection officer from whom an application form can be obtained. The form requests information about the purpose of the research, the subjects, the type of information collected and the source of the data.
Table 3.9. Key points of the Data Protection Act
IQI Make sure that all users and uses of the data are properly covered by your registration
II_II Inform patients of the uses of the data when it is collected. They should be
^^ given an opportunity to refuse permission
JS?^ Make sure that everyone involved in the use of the data is aware of the terms of the Data Protection Act ^Ss^ Appoint named individuals to be responsible for contacting patients when permission to use data is needed
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