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Cameron: We'll turn NHS patients into real-time drugs lab rats

Unless they remember to opt-out

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Prime minister David Cameron said his government is launching a consultation on changing the NHS constitution so that the "default setting" is for patients' data to be used for research unless the patient opts out.

In a speech to the Global Health Policy Summit in London, he said that the UK is going to be the "world leader" in making real-time patient data available for drug development.

"We're going to do this by harnessing the incredible data collected by our National Health Service," he said. "This will make anonymised data available to scientists and researchers on a scale never seen before."

In the prime minister's view this will help make the UK the best place in the world to carry out cutting edge research.

Nick Pickles, director of privacy and civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, said that patients should have control over their medical records and that they are not for the government to give away.

"Anonymised data is not always as anonymous as it sounds, as has been warned by academics and medical professionals," he said. "Once the floodgates are opened it will only be a matter of time before data is re-identified and used for other purposes.

"The government urgently needs to confirm that these proposals will not create a national database of everyone's DNA by the back door and legislate to put into law that this must not happen."

This article was originally published at Government Computing.

Government Computing covers the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. For updates on public sector IT, join the Government Computing Network here.

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