THE minister for Lilliesleaf Church has bemoaned a ruling which means he can no longer find out when parishioners are admitted to Borders General Hospital, writes Kenny Paterson.
Reverend Frank Campbell of Ale and Teviot United Church believes the constraints of data protection have led to the removal of chaplains lists, which were used by ministers across the Borders in order to comfort patients.
He has been forced through his summer newsletter, which also covers Ancrum, Crailing and Eckford, to call on members of his congregation to let him know if anyone has taken ill.
But Rev Campbell hopes a resolution can be sought.
He said: “I used to make weekly visits to the BGH – I have not been for months because I do not know who is in the hospital from the parish.
“I have been going to the BGH for around 20 years and the chaplinacy staff have always been very co-operative, providing names and addresses of those from the parish.
“But that stopped when a new centralised system was brought in and guidelines about data protection were brought into force.
“I know (NHS Borders Spiritual Care Manager) Ron Dick has been trying to negotiate some system to allow patients, on admission, to request a visit from their minister.
“But at the moment I have to appeal to people to tell me if members of the parish are in hospital.
“If members of the congregation know of someone in the hospital then that is fine, but it is those in the parish who are not in contact with the church members who I am missing out on visiting.
“It is unfortunate but I think NHS Borders are limited in what they can do due to the law. It seems a legal issue for the whole of Scotland and therefore a national problem.
“I understand that there is some scope for this to be abused but I think something has to be sorted out.”
An NHS Borders spokeswoman said the decision to do away with chaplain lists was to protect patient confidentiality.
She added: “Last year we reviewed the distribution of patient information across the organisation as part of the implementation of a new electronic patient management system.
“As a consequence, we have changed the way we provide information to the spiritual care team in order to preserve the confidentiality of patients.
“Many patients prefer the fact that they have been admitted to hospital to be kept confidential and we have a duty to respect that.
“We also have a legal responsibility to ensure that disclosure of confidential information to individuals outside the healthcare team directly involved with the patient’s care is only done with the express consent of the patient.
“While NHS Borders recognises the importance of spiritual care to the wellbeing of our patients, our spiritual care team support the view that it is more appropriate for patients to request a visit as this will maintain confidentiality for those who do not wish their admission to be made known to their spiritual care advisor.”