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GPs Ordered To Provide Patient Records For Sale To Private Health Companies

Once again the media remains largely silent on the privatisation of the NHS, and in particular on the issue of patient medical records confidentiality - soon to be a thing of the past!

Under changes to legislation brought in by the Health And Social Care Act 2012 and subsequent amendments brought in this year, GPs are now required to upload personal and identifiable information from the medical record of every patient in England to central computer servers at the Health and Social Care Information Centre.

The excuse for this major health data collection exercise which the government has initiated, is that the data is needed to ensure the NHS has the appropriate resources to address the needs of patients.

However, once this information leaves your GP practice, your doctor will no longer be in control of what data in your patient records is passed on to third parties and to whom.

Pic: Pulse article - click to read it on-lineWorse still, private companies will be able to buy your information, which includes diagnoses, investigations, treatments and referrals as well as other things you may have shared with your doctor including your weight, alcohol consumption, smoking and family history.

The cost will be just £1 and you will have no control over the use to which your personal medical information will be put.

Each piece of information will made identifiable by uploading it along with your NHS number, date of birth, post code, gender and ethnicity.

Do you want private health and insurance companies to know that you visited your doctor about a throat infection, incontinence, or to talk about erectile dysfunction or concerns about a family member’s mental health?

Even more than that, discussions about personal problems like domestic violence, pressure at work or anxiety about your child’s behaviour?

Under the changes made by this Tory-based coalition government to the NHS Constitution, this is soon to be the norm.

Once the information from your GP medical records are collated by NHS England and added to their database, it will be too late to stop the free flow of your personal medical records to third parties for the mere cost of £1!

To enable this, the NHS Constitution has been rewritten and fundamental assumptions such as medical confidentiality are being overturned. In private, officials admit the end state of all this is unclear, but the public language about what is happening to your confidential medical records is carefully chosen to obfuscate and pacify.

Pic: Cameron Says /Nhs patients to be source for researchOne thing is certain, David Cameron made all this very clear back in 2011 when he announced that we are all to be research patients by default. Behind the window-dressing of scientific progress, lies a determined new policy on ‘open data’ which is about using your data – including your medical records held by the NHS – in order “to drive economic growth”.

Under the new regime, your sensitive health information will be taken directly from your GP’s record system and presumed available for a variety of “secondary uses” that go beyond research or your direct medical care.

Whilst Health data has always been collected this time is completely different, in that third party access to your private medical records is now being allowed, for the first time.

NHS England the body now in charge of commissioning primary care services across England will manage and use the information extracted by the Health and Social Care Information Centre for a range of purposes, none of which are to do with your direct medical care.

These secondary uses include patient-level tracking and monitoring, audit, business planning and contract management.

The hidden purpose of this data collection exercise, which your GP cannot refuse to implement is to enable the galloping marketisation of NHS health services, and to allow health insurance companies to make huge profits from cherry-picking low risk patients for health cover.

In a short time, and as is now the case in the USA, if individuals (i.e. You and I) can't afford health insurance premiums (which is very likely if we are poorer and/or have any condition which may be expensive to treat), we won't get free access at the point of need to medical care.

GPs hands are tied, as it has been made clear to them that it is an offence not to provide the data upon request.

Patients may be told that any data passed on will be ‘anonymised’, but this is a fake assurance. Information is to be treated so that it can be linked to other data at patient level – and NHS England has already been given legal exemptions to pass identifiable data across a range of regional processing centres, local area teams and commissioning bodies that came into force on April 1st this year.

The Health and Social Care Information Centre provides access to patient data, some in identifiable form, to a range of ‘customers’ including private companies.

Deliberately withheld from patients (you and I), is the fact that they can choose not to provide their personal medical details to the Government's agencies.

But how?

If you do not want confidential, identifiable information from your medical records to be uploaded and passed on to third parties you can opt out by telling your doctor, in person or via a letter.

You can download a standard opt-out letter for you to complete and use by clicking on the pic to the left.

It is extremely doubtful that many people know that this is happening especially older patients and/or those without Internet access, so please distribute this information widely to your contacts and urge them to take action NOW.

Those concerned with the commercial use of their personal medical data should exercise their choice to OPT OUT of something that is the basis of the privatisation of the NHS and the future creation of an American private health insurance system that will replace the current NHS version of healthcare.

Patient forums, support organisations, and the major medical organisations such as the BMA are supporting patient opt-out.

Source: MedConfidentiality / Pulse Today / Our NHS / BBC News

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