"Concern over Balint Groups' use of patient information"

About: NHS services across the board, especially London region

(as other),

I have dealt with issues of breach of confidence as part of my professional work. Despite many reassurances that 'lessons have been learned' there are still too many concerns over breach of privacy issues in the NHS. Notably through data sharing.

One issue many health workers let alone the public are unaware of is the campaign to develop Balint Groups. (see Balint Society website) They are mainly set up in London so far as University College London is the 'home' of Balint Groups and where many of its' advocates trained or currently work. Membership involves the sharing of usually very sensitive and personal information in small groups amongs practitioners with an interest in psychodynamic practice.

The problem is that users of the NHS are not told on practice leaflets or elsewhere that health workers may belong to one of these groups much less asked their consent to use of information. Many are set up in deprived areas where communities have little knowledge of their rights. One leader of the Balint Society has stated on the website that information should be anonymised to prevent hurting the feelings of those under discussion by GPs and others.

This contravenes the rights of individuals to be informed; give or withhold use of personal information under Data Protection Laws/Human Rights Laws re privacy/Common Law/ Rights to Privacy/GMC Guidelines which incorporate these. It is a highly secretive and unethical project despite being set up supposedly to understand the user-practioner relationship on a deeper level.

Without the input furthermore of service users it is difficult to understand how a relationship is truly being described. One of the worst scandals of recent years has been the misuse of the public for research and training purposes. One of the stated aims of the Balint Society and is an aim of one of the keynote speakers, is to use information divulged to GPs for research and training yet no monitoring seems to be taking place, no ethical approval has been sought.

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