Party Point – February 2014

John Clark writes…

First published: February 2014

I have previously warned that the ConDem government is going down the route of privatising our NHS. As if to confirm my view the government is about to sell our medical records.

GP practices are, from the 1st March 2014, required to give our Personal Confidential Information to the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) without seeking patient consent. We don’t have to be informed let alone asked. All this comes from the powers given in the 2012 Health and Social Care Act.

The NHS states “Our medical records can be used by the NHS to improve the services offered so we can provide the best care for everyone.” Unfortunately they don’t say how this will benefit the users of the NHS.

The next slight of word: according to the NHS the information handed over by the GPs will not include your ‘name’. However it will include your date of birth, postcode, gender, ethnicity and NHS number. As we each only have one date of birth, one gender, one ethnicity and a unique NHS number, this is collectively more than enough to identify any individual.

The NHS claims “This allows those planning NHS services or carrying out medical research to use information from different parts of the NHS in a way that does not identify you.” However hidden away among the comforting words is the phrase ‘secondary users’. This of course includes ‘commercial organisations’. I will leave you, the reader, to imagine the possible commercial organisations – Insurance companies and marketing organisations spring to mind.

If the above is not already unbelievable there is at least one other twist. Medical staff treating you in other surgeries, hospitals, A and E units, Minor Injury Units and out of hours services will not be allowed to use this data base.

Do not blame your GP for this abuse of your medical records. Under the Health and Social Care Act (2012) GP practices will have no choice but to hand over to HSCIC this information. GPs will no longer control your personal records. Your GP will have no say in how this information is used, shared or which organisations can purchase your records.

The one glimmer of light in this threatening gloom is that you, the patient, can stop your records being ‘sold’. If you do nothing and do not opt out then your personal information will be extracted and sent to the HSCIC.

There is yet another slight of word. The NHS website says you can change your mind. What they mean is you can change your mind so as to let them have your medical records. You cannot change your mind and ask for your records to be removed.

If you want to opt out all that is needed is to fill in and sign a simple slip at your GP practice. You need to act now otherwise they decide for you.

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