Controversial NHS medical records database is to be open to all
The controversial NHS medical records database system would allow patients to check their medical documents online and raise any inaccuracies or problems with their doctor, however concerns have been raised over the security.The announcement was buried in documents released with the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement ahead of the results of a public consultation due to be published next year.
Patients should be given greater access and control over their medical information, the consultation said.
However, there are worries over the security of the system and that the information will be passed on or sold in so called ‘technology and data markets’.
Patients could be pressured into giving third parties, such as insurers access, to their record or to disclose details contained in it, it was warned.
In documents released with the Autumn Statement, it said: “All patients in the NHS will have online access – where they wish it – to their personal GP records by the end of this Parliament.
“GP practices that can already provide online access are encouraged to do so as soon as possible.
“These measures will help to position UK companies in the development of a personal information market, which is likely to be the next stage of development on from the growth of social networks.
“Online access to one’s own personal data enhances personal control and participation in public services. It also fuels innovation and growth in the supporting technology and data markets.”
Concerns were raised last year that the Summary Care Record was being rolled out too fast with patient records being uploaded to the national system unless people directly opted out.
The roll-out was halted but it now appears that it is to be restarted again and all patients who have already been contacted will have an online record by 2013.
The summary care record is part of a wider online medical records database to allow NHS staff to access brief medical records of patients they may treat outside their home area. However, in pilots, it was found that staff were passing access ‘key cards’ to each other breaching security rules.
Guy Herbet, general secretary of the campaign group No2ID, said: “The problem is this is a Trojan horse for the continuation of the Department of Health’s continuing centralisation of all medical records, and its seeming desire to share them with its friends in the pharmaceutical and medical technology industries.
“That’s a real threat to privacy and medical confidentiality. And the government has continued the previous administration’s work of taking records out of the hands of clinicians who have a direct duty to you.”
Gus Hosein, Executive Director of Privacy International, said: “In theory, this system is a positive development; everyone should have access to their own information.
“The problem is that the NHS is insisting on building a multi billion pound computer system to store records containing our most intimate and potentially compromising information.
“At best, it will fail, as large government IT systems have historically tended to do. At worst, it will create a data protection nightmare. The benefit of giving patients access to their medical records is vastly outweighed by the huge expense of the system and the significant threat to privacy.”
Chaand Nagpaul, the British Medical Association’s GP IT lead, said: “The BMA does believe that patients should be given the option of accessing more information online so that they can make informed decisions about their care.
“However, take-up has been very slow in those areas where patients have been offered access to their records online.
“It is essential that further work is undertaken to assess the level of demand amongst the public before further investment is made. With the NHS being asked to make efficiency savings of £20 billion, we must not waste money on expensive systems that patients will not use. It is also important any electronic system has built in confidentiality and data security safeguards.
“The UK’s research base and wider NHS could benefit from plans to publish datasets more widely and open up new channels of communication between different parts of the health service. It is important though that confidential data is not inadvertently disclosed. Proper safeguards must be put in place to stop this from happening. “
Tags: Conservatives, data privacy, Doctors, GPs, Health Professionals, IT disaster, Labour shambles, NPfIT, preventable crisis