Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/07/03/london_nhs_patient_data/

London NHS paper reveals plans to share patient data

Social services and ContactPoint included

By John Lettice

Posted in Policy, 3rd July 2007 12:54 GMT

A document produced for London NHS reveals plans for extensive sharing of personal data between the NHS, social services, education and the police. Obtained by William Heath's Ideal Government blog, it says that the "Health and Social Care Integration Project" should fit with "known and future national developments... e.g. ContactPoint for Children, the Common Assessment Framework for Children, the Care Programme Approach, the Single Assessment Process for Older People, the Proposed Common Assessment Framework for Adults and its link with the NHS Connecting for Health National e-SAP Project.

In addition, the system "should provide access to... details of entry on the Vulnerable Adult Register; details of entry on the Child Protection Register" and "should display details of a person's family members or carers who may also be receiving services."

Responding to publication of the document, London NHS Chief Information Officer Kevin Jarrold protests that the paper is intended simply to agree "what is the minimum information needed to help those staff providing care to vulnerable people within London, while protecting patients’ care and privacy. This initiative is to improve the methods used to access that information which is already shared between Health and Social Services. There is no intention of implementing any solution without the say-so of the NHS, Social Care and the public." It was, he says, produced to clarify what should and should not be accessible "by authorised colleagues within the NHS and our partners in Social Care, while ensuring patient safety and confidentiality."

The document was produced as the outcome of three "Mapping Workshops" held for health, social care and adults and children's services in London, as part of the production of "a more detailed description of the requirements of London" to be passed to the contractor, BT. It concentrates, it says, "on the most frequent information sharing needs, not the exceptional."

Among the requirements listed are single sign-on for health and social care workers and "workers from other agencies providing a person’s care and support", 24x7 access and mobile working. And, it certainly does say that the system "must support the person’s views about Consent-to-share-information" and "consent to contact" between care professionals (i.e. carers have the ability to decline to share data on a patient).

The NHS Programme for IT anticipates very large numbers of authorised users, as does ContactPoint, and both of these are already widely seen as privacy disasters waiting to happen. By producing a system that "will enable the sharing of a person's information between" between these and other systems, the project is arguably substantially increasing the risks of abuse. And as an increasing amount of individual data is being shared by statute, at the government's behest (so the individual can't opt out and the professionals have no choice), it's all too likely that London's "vulnerable people" are about to get even more vulnerable. ®