Formal complaint made as part of fight to save vital surgery

The closed Harbottle Surgery
The closed Harbottle Surgery

A county councillor fighting the controversial closure of a village surgery has accused the decision-makers of breaching the Data Protection Act, claiming patients’ medical files have been transferred without their consent.

Harbottle Surgery shut its doors at the end of last month after NHS England said it was forced to wield the axe when Dr Rina Miah took the sudden decision not to continue with her contract and was unable to provide GP cover for the surgery.

The decision has affected its satellite clinics at Rothbury and Otterburn. NHS England insists it is looking at long-term options to deliver some services at Harbottle, but has encouraged patients to register at alternative practices in the meantime.

Last week, we reported that the unexpected closure has prompted Coun Steven Bridgett to explore grounds for a judicial review.

And now he has written to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to make a formal complaint.

He said he is aware that NHS England has transferred the medical files of patients at Wilkinson Park, which is a residential care home in Harbottle supporting people with learning disabilities.

He added: “I have now learnt that NHS England has started sending out letters to other Harbottle patients informing them that because NHS England has classified them as ‘vulnerable’, they have transferred their confidential medical files to other GP practices without their express consent.

“This is being seen by many as a systematic attempt to cut down the number of residents who still have not yet registered with another practice – but have chosen specifically not to do so – and is being viewed as an attempt by NHS England to make it look like, certainly on paper, that Harbottle no longer has the patient numbers to support a practice.

“My view is NHS England has breached the Data Protection Act by transferring the medical files of patients, who are of sound mind and judgement, without their consent and I have made a formal complaint to the ICO.”

The Gazette contacted NHS England, but did not receive a comment.