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Google fear? BCS shrinks away from Tories

Sideways shuffle on NHS IT review

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The British Computing Society has moved to distance itself from the Tory Party's review of NHS IT.

Last August the Conservative Party said it was reviewing the National Programme for IT with the help of Glyn Hayes from the BCS. This led to several reports (here, here and here) suggesting the BCS was behind the review.

But this morning the BCS was insisting the review was nothing to do with them. It is being carried out by BCS member Dr Glyn Hayes, but he is acting as an independent consultant, not as a BCS representative. Hayes heads up the BCS health informatics section. So why has the story changed?

Could it have something to do with recent claims that the Tories were planning to hand patient care records to Google or Microsoft? The Tory party has faced criticism for its starry-eyed view of Google before and for its close links to the firm.

But Cameron was comparing the NHS IT programe unfavourably with Google Health and Microsoft Health Vault as early as last April.

The BCS statement said: "The British Computer Society (BCS) has been mistakenly cited as undertaking a Review of the NHS IT Programme on behalf of the Conservative Party."

The statement repeated the BCS's promotion of common sense data protection principles and said: "In the case of sensitive information such as health records, the potential damage to individuals is significantly greater if robust systems and processes are not in place.

"Establishing that this is the case is potentially more complex where organisations holding the data are based off-shore and databases that they operate may be subject to non-UK law."

The BCS believes the UK needs a culture change in the way it handles personal data.

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the Tory party insisted it had never said the BCS was reviewing the NPfIT. She added that the party has now received the review from Hayes and was considering its response which will be published later this year.

The controversial project is expected to cost £12.7bn and is currently four years behind schedule. ®

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