My Health Record: Greg Hunt promises to redraft legislation after public outcry | Australia news

The health minister, Greg Hunt, has been forced to back down because of escalating controversy over My Health Records, saying legislation will be amended to no record can be released to police or government agencies without a court order.

The adjustment, confirmed late on Tuesday night, follows general practitioners and social services groups calling for major changes to My Health Record to ensure it can only be used for medical purposes.

The prime minister had signalled the government would make “refinements” to the scheme – but a growing backlash lead to calls for changes including requiring law enforcement agencies to get a warrant to access the records and dramatically narrowing the grounds to release information.

Hunt issued a statement confirming new privacy protections would be added after “constructive discussions” with the Australian Medical Association and the college of general practitioners.

“This policy requires a court order to release any My Health Record information without consent. The amendment will ensure no record can be released to police or government agencies, for any purpose, without a court order,” the health minister said.

“The Digital Health Agency’s policy is clear and categorical – no documents have been released in more than six years and no documents will be released without a court order. This will be enshrined in legislation”.

“This change to the My Health Record Act will therefore remove any ambiguity on this matter”.

The change was welcomed on Tuesday night by Liberal MP Tim Wilson, who has raised concerns about the policy. Wilson said Hunt’s move should restore confidence in the system.

Tim Wilson MP

Elated the Health Minister will fix Labor’s flawed MyHealth legislation. These changes address the principle concerns I had with MyHealth & should rebuild patient and health practitioner confidence by putting medical privacy at the fore of Australia’s MyHealth system. #Listening

July 31, 2018

Australians were required to be part of the new system unless they opted out before 15 October. The digital record will track medical conditions, medication and test results and allow it to be shared between medical providers.

But the lack of privacy protections had become increasingly controversial.

The RACGP president-elect Dr Harry Nespolon said Hunt’s amendments were necessary. “Changes to the legislation that remove any questions about who may be able to access the records ensure that the records will be able to be used in line with the RACGP’s position statement on My Health Records”.

“When a patient steps into the office of one of our GPs, we want them to know that their health information is private and protected,” he said.

Digital Rights Watch was also positive. “This is excellent news, and vindication for the privacy experts, medical practitioners, concerned public and even members of the minister’s own government, who have all outlined their privacy concerns with this rollout,” said the group’s chairman, Tim Singleton Norton.

“This government has a long way to earning the trust of Australian citizens when it comes to handling personal information, but this is a good first step for the minister to take”.

Last week the parliamentary library released advice, which was later taken down from its website, warning the law governing MyHealth Records represented a “significant reduction” in safeguards on police getting medical records because the operator could not routinely require them to get a warrant.

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