In what is being called “the biggest data grab in NHS history”, general practitioners in England are being forced to hand over medical records for patients who were previously told would be anonymous and destroyed after the analysis. Some of the previously confidential information being handed over to officials are a person’s weight, their waist size, family medical history, drinking habits, and smoking history.
Via the Daily Mail:
GPs are to be forced to hand over confidential records on all their patients’ drinking habits, waist sizes and illnesses.
The files will be stored in a giant information bank that privacy campaigners say represents the ‘biggest data grab in NHS history’.
They warned the move would end patient confidentiality and hand personal information to third parties.
The data includes weight, cholesterol levels, body mass index, pulse rate, family health history, alcohol consumption and smoking status.
Diagnosis of everything from cancer to heart disease to mental illness would be covered. Family doctors will have to pass on dates of birth, postcodes and NHS numbers.
Officials insisted the personal information would be made anonymous and deleted after analysis.
But Ross Anderson, professor of security engineering at Cambridge University, said: ‘Under these proposals, medical confidentiality is, in effect, dead and there is currently nobody standing in the way.’ Nick Pickles, of the privacy group Big Brother Watch, said NHS managers would now be in charge of our most confidential information.
He added: ‘It is unbelievable how little the public is being told about what is going on, while GPs are being strong-armed into handing over details about their patients and to not make a fuss.
The massive data grab is part of the Everyone Counts program, which is designed to extend the availability of patient data across a broad spectrum of health services.
Earlier this month, Clare Gerada of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) criticized the program and warned of pending health care rationing:
“We are concerned that this will create unrealistic expectations, especially at a time when financial constraints are placing a severe strain on our NHS and the care that we can provide for our patients.
“We fully support patients having more influence in their healthcare, but the reality is that GPs are increasingly having to make very tough and unpopular decisions. We must make sure that they do not end up being scapegoats for the rationing that lies ahead as less money is invested.”
The London Evening Standard reports that patients have little say in regards to the actions of the Everyone Counts program.
“There is no patient opt-out.”
Worse, the patient data could wind up in the hands of third parties.
An NHS Commissioning Board report raises the prospect of the details being handed over to third parties if legally possible.
It states: “The patient identifiable components will not be released outside the safe haven except as permitted by the Data Protection Act.”
Nick Pickles, director of privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: “We may be witnessing the beginning of the end for patient privacy in the NHS.
Could this be coming America’s health care system in the future?