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NHS promises to tell - but not all

THE NEW draft code of practice on openness in the NHS tells patients that they can ask for almost anything - but not all at once.

In its section on 'unreasonable requests' it says: 'If you ask for information which is unreasonable, for example if you ask for 'all information allowed under the code of practice', we may refuse to give this to you.'

Politely it continues: 'We may also refuse to give you information which would take too much time to collect' . . . even if you are willing to pay.

You are allowed, by law, to see copies of your own health records, but not the 'actual documents or records containing the information'. You are allowed to have information about 'how health services are supplied, the targets and standards that have been set and the results achieved'.

The NHS does not, however, have to give you information about documents published before the code of practice is instituted, or information which 'you can easily get from public places such as your library or surgery'.

Nor, according to the draft, will patients have a right to 'information which is incomplete or which we do not think is reliable.'

A spokesman for the NHS executive, which is seeking comment on the code by 18 November, said it was important to strike a balance. 'The first task of the NHS is to run a health service and to provide treatment for patients, not to provide information for private individuals or companies for their marketing purposes.'