Capitulation to NHS bureaucrats’ threatens medical privacy of millions
A buried Parliamentary answer suggests that the coalition Government has, within a month of coming to power, welshed on its promise to stop all medical records in England being put under central management.
In an announcement by Parliamentary written answer  on the same afternoon that ministers were making statements on the tragic shootings in Cumbria, it has been confirmed that patients’ personal details will continue being uploaded to the NHS Summary Care Record (SCR) system, where they are made available for use by the NHS bureaucracy and forever taken out of the control of GPs.
Both parties in opposition said they would significantly reform the NHS National Programme for IT, commonly known as the NHS ‘spine’, which has already cost billions. The Conservatives in opposition commissioned an independent review in 2009 , and a key commitment in the coalition agreement was: “We will put patients in charge of making decisions about their care, including control of their health records.”
During the pre-election period the Department of Health has tried to make its own vision a fait accompli. It spent £7.5 million sending nearly 30 million propaganda letters to the public informing them of ‘Changes to your health records’ in the run-up to the general election . Most people will not have realized that failure to respond to a single letter  will be taken as their decision to hand over their medical records.
NO2ID  complained to Cabinet Secretary Gus O’Donnell about misuse of public funds before the election , but has yet to receive a response.
Now, rather than halting all uploads until a comprehensive NHS review has taken place, the Government says patients’ details will be uploaded to the SCR system by agreement between managers in Primary Care Trusts and GP practice managers — not necessarily involving GPs, let alone patients. Once your record is on the system, it can be ‘enriched’ with more information without consent .
Phil Booth, National Coordinator of NO2ID said:
“This is an almost instant capitulation to the bureaucrats in the NHS who are set on building a multi-billion pound IT empire regardless of its effect on medicine. If David Cameron and Nick Clegg are serious about rolling back the database state and protecting individual rights, then they need to master Whitehall and call a halt now.”
- Parliamentary written answer, 3rd June 2010:http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm100603/text/1006030009.htm#10060344000039
- The full review is available online here (1.4MB PDF file):http://www.e-health-insider.com/img/document_library0282/NHS_and_Social_Care_IT_Review%5B1%5D.pdf
- See ‘Race to kill off care record’, PULSE, 18th May 2010:http://www.pulsetoday.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=19&storycode=4126050&c=2, and compare Connecting for Health statements that there have been no change to
the “rate of activity” over SCRs – http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/05/30/scr_review_call/ – with the graph at the bottom of its own page on ‘Key statistics for Summary Care Records’:http://www.connectingforhealth.nhs.uk/systemsandservices/scr/staff/aboutscr/benefits/scrkey
- Initial upload is done on a ‘presumed consent’ model — if you do not respond within a given deadline, it is assumed that you have consented to having your
details put on the system. Such an approach would be illegal if used to sell an ordinary consumer product. Independent research by a team at UCL on the initial
roll-out phase showed that as few as 1 in 7 people attending places of urgent care delivery recollected receiving a letter about the SCR
- NO2ID is the UK-wide non-partisan campaign against ID cards and the database state. See http://www.no2id.net/dbstate for a list of ‘database state’ initiatives that NO2ID is actively opposing, and http://www.no2id.net/datasharing for how it all fits together. NO2ID helped launch the NHS Confidentiality campaign www.thebigoptout.com in 2006, which won the right for patients to opt out of the Summary Care Record.
- A copy of the letter to Sir Gus, former Health Secretary Andy Burnham and former shadow Health ministers can be downloaded from here:
- For an overview of why Summary Care Records represent such a threat to medical confidentiality, individuals’ and the public health, see: http://www.no2id.net/downloads/SCR_bad_idea.pdf
For further information, or for immediate or future interview, please contact:
- Phil Booth (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 07974 230 839
- Guy Herbert (General Secretary, email@example.com) on 07956 544 308
- Michael Parker (Press Officer, firstname.lastname@example.org) on 07773 376 166