Doctors warn on patient data
Who gets to read your medical file?
Doctors' group the British Medical Association is warning the coalition government that it risks putting ease of access ahead of patient confidentiality as it reforms NHS IT systems.
The BMA warned that the Health Bill provides various groups and bodies with access to your personal health file. The Secretary of State for Health, the Commissioning Board - a new quango which is to replace the oversight role of Primary Care Trusts and NHS Information Centre - which provides data to "frontline decision makers", all get to read your medical notes.
Dr Vivienne Nathanson, Head of Science and Ethics at the BMA, said: “The government has decided to place its desire for access to information over the need to respect patient confidentiality.
“There is very little reference to rules on patient confidentiality that would ensure patients are asked before their information is shared or guarantee that the patient’s identity will not be revealed.
"Fears that their data may be shared with others may result in patients withholding important information; this may not only affect their own health but has implications for the wider health service."
Nathanson said the failure to put safeguards in place removed controls for both doctors and patients and conflicted with government promises to give patients greater control of their own data.
The BMA said it would lobby to get the law changed.
A DH spokesperson sent us this:"Our modernisation plans will make it easier for patients to see where unacceptable NHS services are being provided. Shining a light on poor performance will drive up the quality of care overall.
"However, there is no question of the Health and Social Care Bill undermining the confidentiality of patients and their clinicians. The Bill does not change any of the existing legal safeguards, which are set out in the Data Protection Act and the common law of confidence.
"We are happy to work with the BMA to understand their concerns."
The ICO had no comment at the time of writing.
ICO spokesperson sent us this: “We welcome the publication of the Health and Social Care Bill and will work with the British Medical Association (BMA), the Department of Health (DH) and our other key stakeholders to ensure the provisions of the Bill recognise the important balance that must be achieved between improved transparency in healthcare delivery and increased patient control over their personal details.”®
From the horse's mouth...
I support one of the NHS applications (so AC, obviously)... here's one problem report we got in yesterday, which puts things in perspective :
"We cannot log into [X], it is saying incorrect password on the system. This is for all users who use this password."
So not only are they all sharing one login, but they don't even understand the fundamentals of how a username/password works.
Pint, cos I need one at the end of most days.
Insurance companies, prospective employers, social security, benefits office, council officials, political candidates, police officers, etc...
Those and many more could make, non-approved, use of your medical records. You may not have anything in there... yet. But an awful lot of people have entries describing *possible* diagnoses of acute or chronic conditions, depression, mental illness, possible domestic abuse, etc. which could be used against them if they became "public knowledge".
How long before the rumours of leaks start and we all lose our trust in our GPs. How long before people avoid getting treatment for "that nasty rash", or "that bruised eye"?
A secret shared is no longer a secret.
Did you get confirmation?
My wife wrote in to opt-out way back when they first announced that you could. She's still waiting for some sort of confirmation that her records are not going to be stored online. How does one check?
I seem to remember comments somewhere about "once your records are in the computer system we can't delete them". So I'm expecting they will have "lost" her opt-out and now it's too late.
Yes I am a pessimist, and it's only paranoia if they aren't really out to get you.