Sir Peter Fahy, chief constable of the Greater Manchester Police wants the police to have the right to access sensitive medical data without consent, reports The Guardian. He said that dealing with vulnerable groups now makes up 70% of police work and that speedy access to medical records would give the police a better understanding of the people they are expected to help. Having better knowledge of the needs of these vulnerable groups, he claims, would enable the police to take more effective action and in doing so save money and police time.
Most controversially, he wants access to medical information regarding women suffering domestic abuse even if they have not given permission.
Deborah Orr commenting in The Guardian says it is a good thing that there is recognition of the vulnerabilities of people in contact with the police, but we should be wary of mission creep. Amidst cuts to mental health and social services, the police are not best equipped to step in - and equipping them to do so is not the answer. She argues;
'People need to be able to get help before the police become involved. Too often, matters are allowed to reach a crisis before there is much in the way of societal intervention. Fahy’s solution is the wrong one, but he is right to prompt a debate about what needs to be done for people who are failing to cope. The problem is that helping the vulnerable has become crisis management. But the solution is to take the police out of the matrix as far as possible, not to draw them in to this absurd and counterproductive extent.'