Feeds

Tories offer NHS IT rescue plan after major patient data losses

Propose switch to decentralised, interoperable databases

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

The Tory party has put forward a rescue plan for the NHS IT system in the wake of the latest government data losses, which were revealed over the weekend. Nine English NHS trusts have owned up to large scale losses of personal data, and although in most cases the nature of this data has yet to be revealed, City & Hackney Primary Care Trust reportedly mislaid the names and addresses of 160,000 children.

Speaking on Radio 4's Today programme, Tory Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said that the losses illustrated the dangers of holding all NHS records on a single database that could be accessed by 300,000 individuals. The system need not however, he stressed, be entirely abandoned. Instead, data should be held on smaller, interoperable local databases.

Records could then be shared when needed, with an audit trail held of individual accesses. The Department of Health argued, somewhat unconvincingly under the circumstances, that the central database would protect personal database because of the strength of its security systems. The Tory plan, however, appears to have merit in that it provides a viable, but more secure, way forward using the infrastructure that's being put in place under the government NHS plans. Effectively, this kind of approach could provide the government with an escape hatch, should it wish to use it.

The latest breaches, a total of ten across nine trusts, have emerged as part of the government's post-HMRC data security review. The City & Hackney loss occurred when a disc containing the data failed to arrive at an East London hospital, while other losses are though to have been of data stored on laptops and transferred on flash drives. It's worth noting that as this indicates poor handling practices for bulk data (precisely the problem that has been horribly exposed in government systems recently), neither the centralised system nor the Tory alternative is of itself a fix.

The Department of Health claimed that there is no evidence that the data might have fallen into the wrong hands, but said that the breaches were being dealt with locally by the individual trusts. Initially it said it did not have details of how many patients have been affected, but this morning it estimated a total of 168,000. It is, one might observe, a puzzle that the DoH seems unable to furnish details of the problem, but is able to say that there probably isn't one - how does that work?

It's also worth noting that, were it not for the HMRC blunder and the consequent security review being carried out by Cabinet Secretary Gus O'Donnell, all of the data losses now being reported would still have taken place, but few if any would have been revealed. So far the government has published one interim report on the HMRC incident and a progress report on the broader O'Donnell review. Full reports on both are due "in the spring." ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Megaupload overlord Kim Dotcom: The US HAS RADICALISED ME!
Now my lawyers have bailed 'cos I'm 'OFFICIALLY' BROKE
MI6 oversight report on Lee Rigby murder: US web giants offer 'safe haven for TERRORISM'
PM urged to 'prioritise issue' after Facebook hindsight find
BT said to have pulled patent-infringing boxes from DSL network
Take your license demand and stick it in your ASSIA
Right to be forgotten should apply to Google.com too: EU
And hey - no need to tell the website you've de-listed. That'll make it easier ...
Assange™ slumps back on Ecuador's sofa after detention appeal binned
Swedish court rules there's 'great risk' WikiLeaker will dodge prosecution
prev story

Whitepapers

Go beyond APM with real-time IT operations analytics
How IT operations teams can harness the wealth of wire data already flowing through their environment for real-time operational intelligence.
10 threats to successful enterprise endpoint backup
10 threats to a successful backup including issues with BYOD, slow backups and ineffective security.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Website security in corporate America
Find out how you rank among other IT managers testing your website's vulnerabilities.