Patient records out of patient control?

BCDBu3rCIAAyhwY.jpg_largeToday’s Daily Mail reports on the latest NHS database plan, which will see information held in GP’s surgeries being extracted and transferred to a new central system.

The agenda in the NHS to share data is far more than just monitoring how heath services are used. We may be witnessing the beginning of the end for patient privacy in the NHS.

Ross Anderson, professor of security engineering at Cambridge University, told the paper: ‘Under these proposals, medical confidentiality is, in effect, dead and there is currently nobody standing in the way.’

To claim a database that includes your NHS number, date of birth and postcode is anonymous is simply misleading patients. The long-term agenda appears to point towards opening up the NHS’s data to outside users for commercial gain, while leaving patients in the dark about what is going on. Given the current proposals to amend the NHS constitution, the danger is that this is a pre-emptive step to allow our medical information to be shared on an unprecedented scale.

Forget putting patients in charge of their medical records, this new giant database will put NHS managers in charge of our most confidential information. It is unbelievable how little the public are being told about what is going on, while GPs are being strong-armed into handing over details about their patients and told to not make a fuss.

Not only have the public not being told what is going on, none of us have been asked to give our permission for this to happen. That we’ll have no right to opt-out is plain wrong and the scheme should be abandoned before it turns into a privacy disaster on an unprecedented scale.

The NHS has a terrible record in keeping information confidential and there is a huge risk that patients will start to withhold information from their GPs because they do not believe it will stay private. That could have catastrophic results for care.