Police want right to see medical records without consent

Sir Peter Fahy says privacy concerns which either deny officers access to information or slow the process down cost police money and time. Photograph: David Sillitoe for the Guardian

Greater Manchester chief constable says move is needed to help police deal with people struggling to look after themselves

Vikram Dodd

Police want new and expanded rights to access medical records and other confidential data without an individual’s consent, a senior police chief has told the Guardian.

Sir Peter Fahy, the Greater Manchester chief constable, said the extra access to sensitive data was needed to help police cope with growing numbers of vulnerable people.

Fahy said police frequently dealt with people struggling to look after themselves, including elderly people, people with dementia or Alzheimer’s, those with drug or alcohol problems, those with mental health issues and problem families. Perhaps most controversially, he said medical professionals should share information about women suffering from domestic abuse, even against the victim’s wishes.

He said demands had changed over the past two decades, with vulnerable groups now accounting for around 70% of police work. “We need to have easier access to information,” he said.

Fahy cited the example of basic information such as next of kin for people with Alzheimer’s or dementia, access to which, he said, would enable police to contact relatives and get basic details such as medical history, who a person’s doctor is, and what exactly they are suffering from.

Read more