NHS health data sharing project scrapped

The Department of Health in England is scrapping its controversial data sharing project – known as Care.data.

The Department of Health in England is scrapping its controversial data sharing project - known as Care.data.The programme, which was due to launch in 2014, faced widespread criticism – including fears the public had been left in the dark about it.

The announcement comes as Dame Fiona Caldicott and the Care Quality Commission published two reviews on data security in English healthcare.

Their reports put forward a series of proposals to safeguard data in the NHS:

  • They call for stronger government sanctions for malicious or intentional data breaches, together with tougher criminal sanctions against those who use any anonymised data to re-identify individuals.
  • Meanwhile, out of date computer software and hardware should be replaced urgently, they say.
  • The reviews recommend an opt-out system so patients can say no to confidential or personal health data being used for anything beyond their direct care.
  • But this could be overridden for mandatory requirements such as fraud investigations or situations of public interest such as epidemics, they suggest.
  • And patients could give explicit consent for specific research studies, even if they had opted-out.

Responding in a written statement to Parliament, the Department of Health said it has launched a public consultation on the option of opt-outs, alongside 10 security standards that Dame Fiona suggests NHS organisations must meet.

Officials also say they support stronger criminal sanctions for misuse of anonymised data and are working with suppliers to ensure IT systems are up-to-date.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health said though it had taken the decision to close the Care.data programme it was “committed to realising the benefits of sharing information”.

The Care.data project, led NHS England, together with the Health and Social Care Information Centre, was designed to bring health and social care information from different settings together to see what was working well and what could be done better.

It was due to launch two years ago, but was paused after concerns a public information campaign explaining its use was not clear enough and did not reach everyone.

Whilst Health Direct is pleased that this discredited IT system is being closed, one wonders with the Chilcott enquiry and Wales football game dominating the news agenda whether yesterday was a good day to bury bad news.

NHS 111 phone number raises safety concerns

Doctors are questioning the safety of a new non emergency NHS 111 phone number sparks concern.NHS 111 phone number raises safety concernsThe 111 service, replacing NHS Direct, is being piloted in some areas ahead of a nationwide launch but has proved problematic, with some callers left on hold for hours.

Dr Laurence Buckman, the British Medical Association’s GP committee chair, says rollout should be stalled.

It has already sanctioned an extension of up to six months of the original 1 April 2013 deadline for regions struggling to set up the new service.

The NHS Direct 0845 4647 service will continue to be available to callers in areas where the NHS 111 service is not yet available, Health Minister Lord Howe insists.

These include: North of Tyne and Tees, North Essex, Bedfordshire and Luton, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Leicestershire and Rutland, Berkshire, Cornwall and Devon.

But the British Medical Association is concerned that many of the places that are already offering the new service or that are due to launch soon are ill-prepared, putting patients’ lives at risk.

The BMA says it has been receiving widespread reports of NHS 111 failures.

Some of the pilot regions have been unable to cope with call volumes or have suffered catastrophic IT failures.

In Greater Manchester the entire system crashed, meaning calls went unanswered.

Problems led to a surge in ambulance callouts and casualty visits as callers have resorted to other measures to get seen by a healthcare professional.

Dr Buckman said: “The BMA is seriously concerned that these failures are not only having impact on other, already overstretched NHS services, but potentially putting patient safety at risk. Patients need to have their calls answered immediately and correctly and not be faced with any form of delay.

“The Department of Health needs to reconsider immediately its launch of NHS 111 which clearly is not functioning properly. They must ensure that the system is safe for patients before it is rolled out any further.”

Lord Howe said: “NHS 111 will help patients access the whole of the NHS through just one simple number.

“Over the coming months this new service will replace the existing NHS Direct telephone advice line. To ensure that patients get the best care and treatment, we are giving some areas more time to go live with NHS 111 while we carry out thorough testing to ensure that those services are reliable.”

A paperless NHS would save billions

Further to the Health Direct post of yesterday: Health Secretary wants to cut nurses’ paperwork by third the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt wants the NHS to be paperless by 2018 – a move which a report says could help save the National Health Service billions of pounds a year.A paperless NHS would save billionsIn a speech, Mr Hunt said that the first step is to give people online access to their health records by March 2015.

And by April 2018- most controversially, any crucial health information should be available to staff at the touch of a button.

This information technology revolution has been long in the offing.

It was Mr Hunt’s predecessor Andrew Lansley who first pledged in 2010 to start an information revolution to ensure patients could use the web to report their experiences, rate NHS organisations and access their records so there would be “no decision about me, without me”.

A couple of years on and progress has been patchy, with some parts of the NHS offering a big digital presence and others lagging.

Previous attempts to transform NHS information technology have run into trouble.

Labour’s white elephant scheme, Connecting for Health, ballooned in costs to £12 billion only allowed X-rays and scans to be stored and sent electronically.

But other parts of the programme – launched in 2002 – became mired in technical problems and contractual wrangling and the national programme has effectively been disbanded and local parts of the health service asked to proceed with upgrading IT systems.

In a speech to think tank Policy Exchange, Mr Hunt said “We need to learn those lessons – and in particular avoid the pitfalls of a hugely complex, centrally specified approach. Only with world-class information systems will the NHS deliver world-class care,” he will say.

Mr Hunts comments come as a report by PwC suggests a potential £4.4bn could be put back into the NHS by using better use of information and technology.

Using electronic prescribing and electronic patient records would also give staff more time to spend with patients, for example the John Taylor Hospice near Birmingham found that using laptops more than doubled the amount of time clinicians could spend with patients.

The reason that the City got so worked up during the “DotCom Bubble” was that they foresaw the benefits of digitising business processes. Whenever one sees a TV interview with staff or patients in a NHS hospital one always sees huge files of paperwork for every patient.

Common sense cries out for a paperless NHS. The main issue though is patient data security- which has yet to be properly addressed. Until it is then more disappointment and more wasted tax payers’ money will be expected.

From: http://www.dyenamicsolutions.com/a-paperless-nhs-would-save-billions

UK patients will access their NHS records online in three years

NHS patients will be able to access to their NHS records online in the next three years under plans to be announced by the Government.UK patients will access their NHS records online in three yearsDoctors’ surgeries will have to set up services to allow anyone to see their health files, book appointments and order repeat prescriptions on the internet.

People will also be given detailed information on the survival rates and success of treatments in their areas, so that they can choose to go to more “successful” hospitals or doctors if they wish.

A Government source said: “Many people are juggling longer working hours with caring for children and older relatives.  Looking after their own health, and the health of their families needs to be as straightforward as possible.”

“Looking after our health should be easy — in an age where people can do their banking or shopping online, it should be just as simple to view your health records, order a repeat prescription or book a GP appointment.”

The move for online health records comes despite the decision by Andrew Lansley, the previous health secretary, to cancel a massive NHS national database amid fears over its cost and security concerns.

However the new online plan will be operated at a local level. Patients will have to opt-in to the system to read their records over the internet. Paramedics and other medical experts will also be given access to the records of those making use of the system.

It will be introduced before the next election in 2015 in a move described as a “watershed” for the NHS.

The proposal is one of the key planks of the new NHS mandate being announced by the Government.

The mandate is a set of instructions given by ministers to improve the health service following the Coalition’s reforms. Under the plans, people will be able to enter their postcode into a new system to assess the effectiveness of health treatment in their local areas.

A scheme allowing people to compare the success of individual surgeons or other doctors will also be extended.

From: http://www.dyenamicsolutions.com/uk-patients-will-view-their-nhs-records-online-in-three-years

Viruses and bugs widespread in NHS medical technology

NHS medical technology has been found to be infected by computer viruses and malware according to  health and security experts.Viruses and bugs widespread in NHS medical technology They fear that the virus infections could become so severe that a patient may end up getting harmed.

Many out dated computer systems which were not able to be changed were to blame for the vulnerabilities, the experts said.

One hospital is said to be deleting viruses from up to two machines a week.

The warnings were given as part of a panel discussion in Washington DC, as reported by Technology Review from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Mark Olsen, chief information security officer at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, said the hospital had 664 pieces of medical equipment running on old versions of Windows.

This means the equipment is affected by weaknesses which later releases of Windows have since fixed.

There are also fears that medical devices could even end up being part of botnets – large networks of hijacked computers that are often used to send out spam email.

Medical devices could also be struck down by slow performance related to being infected.

“Imagine you have a heart monitor that’s running Windows and it gets infected by a computer virus and slows down. This mere slowing down of the computer could cause the device to miss a sensor reading. It certainly raises an eyebrow. Who’s watching out for that?”

He said that there is no evidence as yet that the malware is reaching medical machines as a result of being targeted by criminals.

Instead, he said it was more likely to be “collateral damage” from conventional malware designed to infect normal PCs.

“What we’re finding is that software has brought tremendous benefit to medicine, but we’ve kind of forgotten that there’s these inconvenient risks of software,” he said.

In the UK, the NHS faces similar challenges.

“The need to implement security and privacy at the design of all systems, whether they’re embedded or not is of paramount importance, particularly to the health industry,” said Raj Samani, who worked in the health sector and is now chief technology officer for security specialists McAfee.

A Channel 4 investigation in 2008 discovered that NHS computers had been affected by more than 8,000 viruses.

From: http://www.dyenamicsolutions.com/nhs-viruses-and-bugs-widespread-in-medical-technology

Medical and social security records being stored unlawfully and inappropriately accessed

Medical and social security records kept by public bodies are being unlawfully or inappropriately accessed dozens of times a month and hundreds of civil servants disciplined for data offences, according to Government records.Medical and social security records being stored unlawfully and inappropriately accessedStaff at the Department for Work and Pension (DWP) are being reprimanded at a rate of nearly five per day for breach of the rules governing its vast database – thought to be the largest of its kind in Europe – while the Department of Health (DoH) last year recorded 13 cases a month of unlawful access to medical records.

The statistics, obtained by Channel 4’s Dispatches under the Freedom of Information Act, will increase concern about the security of personal data and the ease with which private investigators are selling access to personal and confidential information, much of which is held on state computer systems and is illegal to obtain without suitable authorisation.

The DWP figures show that between April 2010 and last March a total of 513 staff members were disciplined for “unauthorised disclosure of official, sensitive, private and/or personal information… to anyone” from its database holding the records of 98 million people, which can be accessed by 200,000 people. For the 10 months from April 2011 to this January, the figure was 463.

When all types are data offence are taken into account, ranging from breaches of the Data Protection Act to inappropriate browsing of personal records of benefits claimants, some 1,172 civil servants were disciplined between April 2010 and last March, with a further 992 reprimanded between April 2011 and this January – equivalent to 4.57 cases per working day.

The DoH told Dispatches that it does not collect details of all cases of unlawful access of medical records but said it was aware of 158 incidents in 2011 – equivalent to 13 per month. In 2007, the figure was 28.

It is not known how many of data breaches involved the passing of information to an outside individual. The DWP said there had been 11 “serious cases” of personal data loss since 2007 which had been reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office.

A Dispatches programme, Watching the Detectives, reported the results of a year long investigation into private detectives who are accused of selling access to health, benefit and criminal records as well as mobile phone bill and bank accounts.

A spokeswoman for the DWP, which employs 100,000 people, said it had taken action in recent years to improve staff awareness of data protection. She said: “DWP makes millions of data transactions every week and while instances of misuse are low, we take security seriously which is why we have a process in place to detect them and take the necessary action. ”

In a statement, the DoH said: “The Department of Health provides clear guidelines on patient confidentiality and effective information security. Individual NHS organisations are responsible for ensuring that their staff know what is expected of them in regard to respecting the confidentiality of their patients.

“Medical records are private and any abuse of their confidentiality is deplorable. Individuals have a right to know that their personal information is protected. The NHS takes protecting individual privacy extremely seriously and if any member of staff is discovered intentionally breaching this, they will be subject to appropriate disciplinary action.”

From: http://www.independent.co.uk/medical-and-social-security-records-being-stored-unlawfully-and-inappropriately-accessed-statistics-show

Health Direct website for NHS patients booking doctor appointments online

NHS patients will be able to book GP appointments online and get test results online within three years from a new health direct website.Health Direct website for NHS patients booking doctor appointments onlineThe moves are part of a new Information Strategy designed to “take the hassle out of the health service”.

Online communications between patients and their doctors is already happening in some places.

But the strategy sets out plans to ensure there is universal adoption of digital technologies.

The Department of Health is also encouraging the NHS and private companies to develop new health apps for smart phones and tablet computers.

Repeat prescriptions will also be available from 2015 too.

The deadline mirrors the goal of giving patients access to electronic medical records – something thatwas part of tony bliar’s vision for the NHS in his NPfIT £12 billion dream.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: “Our NHS reforms are about making life easier for patients.

“By allowing people to access the NHS online, we will put an end to the 8am rush to phone your GP to try and book an appointment. Reforms like this will take the hassle out of the health service.”

Dr Laurence Buckman, chairman of the British Medical Association’s GPs Committee, said: “There are GP surgeries which have been pioneering online booking and repeat prescriptions for a while now so we would support the wider implementation of this, as long as it doesn’t impact on patients without IT access who can continue to book appointments in the usual way.

“However, we would caution against the potential use of email for consultations, because compared to a telephone or face-to-face consultation it is difficult for GPs to assess someone quickly and safely this way.

“When it comes to patients being able to view their records online, we believe patients should have access to their health records but we’d want to be satisfied that their records would remain secure before this was implemented – for example it would be important to be certain that it couldn’t be an abusive partner or a parent trying to access their teenager’s records. All patients need to be confident that their records are held safely otherwise they may not feel comfortable talking to their GP about confidential issues.”

Given that the government has an appalling record on leaking and losing your records from everything from DVLA to the tax office we caution against rushing out and signing up for similar treatments.

IT firm behind unworkable NHS database keeps IT deal

Ministers have agreed to give the American company responsible for the “unworkable” NHS database NPfIT almost £1 billion in health contracts, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.
The National Audit Office criticised the NPfIT NHS database project for being poor value for money, patchy and long overdue.

Computer Sciences Corporation, (CSC) an American IT firm, previously had a £1.9 billion contract for the national NHS system which was scrapped by Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, last year.

The firm is understood to have threatened legal action against the Government and is now thought to have agreed to continue with up to £900 million of NHS work in return for dropping any legal action.

It will run computer systems for the NHS across the north, midlands and eastern England under the deal which is expected to be agreed in the coming days.

Ministers are expected to herald the “compromise deal” as a success which will save the taxpayer about £1 billion. However, it underlines the difficulties faced by the Coalition in extricating itself from previous contracts agreed by the last Government.

It will also add to growing allegations that despite the high profile announcement that the beleaguered national NHS database is being scrapped – it is simply being replaced by a series of similar regional systems which will perform the same function.IT firm behind unworkable NHS database keeps IT dealThe NHS database attracted widespread criticism following a series of damning official reports. Last year, the House of Commons Public Accounts committee described the programme as “unworkable”.

When he announced the “acceleration” of the dismantling of the system last year, the Health Secretary said: “Labour’s IT programme let down the NHS and wasted taxpayers’ money by imposing a top-down IT system on the local NHS, which didn’t fit their needs.

“We will be moving to an innovative new system driven by local decision-making. This is the only way to make sure we get value for money from IT systems that better meet the needs of a modernised NHS.”

Computer Sciences Corporation had previously largely written off the value of the NHS contract in its accounts, leading to a reduction in the company’s share price. Last May, David Cameron said the Government would not sign any new contracts with the firm until a review of its work on the NHS IT programme was complete.

However, the firm announced yesterday that it had entered into a non-binding letter of intent with the British Government. The letter “defines a way forward for CSC to deliver healthcare solutions and services, primarily across the North, the Midlands and east of England.”

The company’s share price rose yesterday after falling by more than a third over the past year.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “The Department of Health has secured agreement to an approach which will involve a hugely improved settlement for the NHS with CSC, the company responsible for introducing Lorenzo software in the North, Midlands and East.

“A Letter of Intent has been negotiated which makes clear that a new contract, to be signed this Spring, will ensure that the local NHS has control over whether to introduce Lorenzo. The agreement we have negotiated gives choice to Trusts about taking this software, rather than imposing the decision on NHS organisations.”

From: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/IT-firm-behind-unworkable-NHS-database-keeps-IT-deal

NHS computer disaster to cost another £2 billion

A US company contracted to provide IT technology for the National Health Service is set to receive a £2 billion extension despite the failed project being abandoned.NHS computer disaster to cost another £2 billionComputer Sciences Corporation (CSC) has reportedly informed Wall Street that it expects its contract to provide electronic patient records across the NHS to be extended.

Taxpayers are now facing an estimated £2 billion bill, despite the company already failing to deliver a fully functional version of its software, The Times reported.

The £11.4 billion National Programme for IT, set up in 2002 by bliar, was at the time spun as the world’s biggest civilian computerisation project.

It aimed to give doctors instant access to patient records wherever they were being treated and CSC had signed a deal to computerise records in most of England.

Digitising the medical records of the country’s 62 million people was the core objective of the National Programme for IT in the NHS, accounting for £7 billion of the total estimated cost.

Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, announced in September that he was abandoning the scheme to create a national patient database because it had “let down” the health service.

He made the decision to “urgently dismantle” the failed project after criticism it was not value for taxpayers’ money.

Yet the company stated in official US papers that it was in talks with the British Government for its contract to be extended until 2017, at a cost of up to £2 billion.

Computer applications installed as part of the scheme have also failed or been scrapped.

However, £250,000 in bonuses has been paid by the DoH to 80 people involved in the scheme as a reward for “an exceptional contribution to delivery”.

CSC, one of the world’s biggest IT providers, had been contracted to provide patient record software, known as the Lorenzo system, to 166 NHS hospitals. But it has delivered on 10 projects. None of those systems is fully functional.

CSC has signed deals worth hundreds of millions of pounds with Royal Mail, Identity and Passport Service and UK Atomic Energy Authority.

The Coalition’s Major Projects Authority, established to review Labour’s financial commitments, found the scheme was not fit to provide services to the NHS.

A cross-party committee of MPs concluded the programme had proved “beyond the capacity of the DoH to deliver”.

Katherine Murphy, of the Patients Association, said it was “shameful” to pour more money into a failed initiative.

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.Controversial NHS medical records database is to be open to allThe 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. “

From:  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/All-patients-to-be-given-online-access-to-medical-records