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Threat to medical confidentiailty

From Cllr James Baker

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Patients are facing a grave threat to their medical confidentiality. From April 1st 2013 there will be a radical change to the way in which the Department of Health collects information about patient health from GP record systems.

At present mainly aggregate health data is collected and patients can sometimes opt out of having identifiable information from their own record uploaded to central systems. From April 1st, the newly-renamed NHS Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) will begin uploading identifiable patient information without telling patients how they can opt out of this process – or even that they can.

The data uploaded will include every patient's NHS number, date of birth, postcode and ethnicity, together with details of medical conditions, diagnoses and treatments. It will be held on HSCIC and other NHS systems where it will be used to analyse health trends and demand for services, improve treatment and provide evidence upon which local clinical commissioning groups can base decisions about service provision.

The data will also be made available to outside parties such as researchers and for-profit companies. The HSCIC say that it will be 'anonymised' before release, but the concept of anonymisation is highly controversial and it is unlikely that guarantees can be given about the possible re-identification of the data.

Further, it is quite clear from Department documents that there will be circumstances in which requests for identifiable patient information will be granted. 'Customers' for health data will be approved by a Data Access Advisory Group hosted within the HSCIC, and specific requests for data will be considered by an Independent Advisory Group, also hosted by HSCIC.

Decisions will be made without reference to the patients concerned, and data extracts that have already been gathered by HSCIC may be used for a range of 'secondary purposes'.

For decades medical confidentiality has been central to patients' relationships with their doctors, but this right is about to be removed. Quite aside from the grave security concerns, the creation of a system designed to harvest and pass around the medical details of potentially every person in the country is an unacceptable encroachment on the privileged nature of the GP/patient relationship that will undoubtedly deter those with sensitive conditions from seeking help, putting both individual and public health at risk.

From Eleanor Land

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Unfortunately for patients there is very little they can do about this situation. If politicians were in the least concerned about the confidentiality of patients they would not have voted for the Bill.

None of the proposals for a top down re-organisation of the Health Service were contained in either of the Coalition partys' manifestos. In order to gain seats around the Cabinet table, the Liberal Democrats decided to troop through the Lobby following the Tories and vote for proposals which include this threat to medical confidentiality.

In my opinion, the Health Service is being "softened up" for privatisation, the private health companies are salivating at the thought of getting their greedy hands on yet another service which should never be privatised. The Labour Party under that other shark Tony Blair started this attack on the NHS, but the Tories and their little helpers the Lib Dems are now delivering the coup de grace.

From Cllr James Baker

Friday, 15 February 2013

Eleanor the threat to confidentiality in our health system is something I have been personally fighting since 2006. The NHS Care Records system and the NHS spine were starting to be rolled out in 2007. The Big Opt Out, NO2ID and other privacy groups have been running a patient led campaign for years on this.

The Health and Social Care Act enables further sharing of our information, but the increasing erosion of patient privacy pre-dates it. I was one of the people involved in fighting for the right for an opt-out of the Summary Care Record system. If people had taken the attitude there was nothing that could be done about it that opt-out wouldn’t exist. At first the department was requesting that lists of all patients wanting to opt out was sent to them from GPs (further breaching confidentiality of those who raise concerns with their GP).

A new medical confidentiailty campaign is in the process of being established, and it will aim to win patients a working opt-out of the new systems that are being put in place. Meanwhile people can raise their concerns directly with the GP. Opening up people’s medical records for research purposes or exploitation by private companies without their consent can’t be allowed to happen, and there is certainly something we as patients of the NHS can do about it.

From Eleanor Land

Saturday, 16 February 2013

I wish you luck with your campaign Councillor Baker, however there is no doubt the eagerness of these private companies to get their claws into our records will not go away, most of the Health reforms put in by this Coalition are specifically designed to make it easier for these companies to get their hands on the NHS and taxpayers money. I don't think the Coalition are the least bit interested in what patients want, they are following the Tory ideological agenda. I don't trust any of the main parties with regard to the NHS.

From Mick Coughlan

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

I support fully James's concerns and attempts at re-instating an individuals right to privacy in all lawful situations. I also agree totally with Eleanor's concerns regarding the privatisation of our NHS.

James in this respect has a problem in that the Lib Dem's have, as Eleanor points out, supported the Conservatives in the Health and Social Welfare Reform bill. In fact if the media are to be believed the cabinet (both parties) sat banging the table in joy when it was announced the bill had been passed. Labour made way for this in pushing Trusts to attain Foundation Trust status and the conservatives with support from the Lib Dem's are exploiting this fully whilst they can by privatising as much of the NHS as possible. Truth be told I am not certain that Labour will be able or have the willingness or desire to overturn this when they get back into Gov't.

It's interesting to see who in Gov't will financially benefit personally by privatising the NHS. Most of the big players in the Gov't & shadow Gov't including Lib Dem's and Labour members will, due to their connections to private healthcare companies. It is nothing short of a scandal that this is being allowed to happen. It is also a scandal that the BBC are ignoring this by not reporting it.

In short we are being robbed of something this country was once proud of and that we and our families have paid for. In future our grandchildren will be asking us how we allowed this to be stolen from us.


From Cllr James Baker

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Chapter 2 of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 did enable a lot of these abuses of privacy. The changes it made to confidentiality got hardly any media coverage in the debates around privatisation. The previous National Health Service Act 2006 (section 251) also did a lot to erode patient confidentiality.

Successive governments have been seduced by a minority of people working within our civil service & NHS management who share an ideological vision of sharing patient data for corporate and commercial value. For them health records do not belong to patients, but a valuable ‘resource’ waiting to be tapped.

Let us not forget the £12Bn wasted by Connecting for Health on the failed National Programme for IT. How many nurses or beds could that have provided for? The Summary Care Records too are another abuse of our privacy pursued across successive governments. The General Practioners Committee has called for them to be scrapped, it is estimated they have cost £1,200 for each access of these electronic records.

Our own local Dr Mark Davies worked for Connecting for Health and now earns a six figure salary on the board of the Health & Social Care Information. It would be interesting to know whether he thinks there should be a public information campaign to let patients know their data is about to be sucked out of GP surgeries (by the GP extraction service GPES) and placed in the hands of government, ready to exploit for corporate and commercial value.

This isn't about putting patients in control of their data, it's about government stealing our most sensitive data, and passing it onto their chums in industry. It's a corporate stitch-up that should offend socialists, and free marketers like me alike.

For centuries medical confidentiality has been central to patients' relationships with their doctors. This is about to be ended without public discussion. It will deter people with sensitive conditions from seeking help, putting both individual and public health at risk.