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Liberty Object To NHS Medical Records Harvesting And Sell-Off

The UK's well respected Civil Rights organisation has launched a warning to all NHS patients in England that their personal medical records are about to be harvested and then made available for sale to insurance companies, private healthcare companies and pharmacuetical companies.

Written by Liberty's Policy Officer, Sara Ogilvie; it is below in its entirety:

Over recent weeks, you’ll probably have received a leaflet through your door at some point entitled “Better information means better care”. Remember reading it? Probably not – who reads junk mail anyway, right? Either way, it won’t necessarily have been clear what’s at stake – your private medical records, to be precise.

The leaflet relates to a controversial new NHS England scheme which will see your family’s patient-identifiable data uploaded from your GP to a single database for the first time. This will include your NHS number, date of birth, postcode, ethnicity and gender together with your medical diagnoses (including cancer and mental health), their complications, referrals to specialists, your prescriptions, your family history, details of your vaccinations and screening tests, your body mass index and your smoking and alcohol habits.

The scheme has been justified on the basis of advancing medical research.

But once the “care.data” database goes live in May, organisations including drug and insurance companies will be able to apply to access to it and buy “pseudonymised” details about patients. So-called “backdoors” will allow bodies like the police to have direct access to your medical records via the database. This means that a huge number of private organisations and public institutions will be able to look through or even buy access to your medical information.

The Government ignored advice that involvement in the scheme should be on an "opt-in" basis. Instead it promised that concerned patients can opt-out of the scheme. But the opt-out has not been publicised and there was no opt-out form included with the mailout – people have been told to speak to their GP instead.

This is misleading – there’s no need to book an appointment with your doctor; you can simply post or drop in a letter or form.

Large databases like this can be created with the greatest will in the world and still fall foul of abuse. The potential for human error, and data mining and data profiling, is huge.

At the very least, this system should be opt-in, rather than opt-out. And the upload should be delayed, to allow for proper parliamentary scrutiny and public understanding of the implications of these plans.

Source: Liberty

See also: Harvesting Of Your NHS Patient Personal Data For Sale Begins In Two Weeks!



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