Australia hires former head of controversial UK care.data plan

Tim Kelsey to head new Digital Health Agency

Doctor Nick Riviera

The Australian government's love affair with digitisation experts from the United Kingdom continues, with former National Health Service (NHS) digital head Tim Kelsey made boss of the antipodean Digital Health Agency (successor to the National e-Health Transition Agency).

The leave moves Telstra Health shy a director, since that was Kelsey's destination when he announced his resignation from the NHS in September 2015.

Kelsey quit the NHS after several years in charge of its highly-controversial care.data program, an data sharing operation that was criticised as privacy-invasive.

In 2014, he went on the record saying that “"no one who uses a public service should be allowed to opt out of sharing their records. Nor can people rely on their record being anonymised.”

The system was so popular among doctors that its bosses started switching from carrot to stick in 2014, saying laggards would have funding withheld.

By August 2015, a Cambridge University study noted care.data's failings: “mismanagement and miscommunications, inadequate protections for patient anonymity, and conflicts with doctors”. The boffins opined that requiring patients to opt-out was “unsuitable” and said there was a risk “to the trust between patients and general practitioners”.

The opt-out process led to another review in September 2015, shortly before Kelsey announced he was bound for Botany Bay. He first clocked in at Telstra Health in February.

Care.data, meanwhile, clocked off in July after the Caldicott Review found it didn't have the confidence of patients.

Australian health minister Sussan Ley's canned announcement says the agency has “a focus on engagement, innovation and clinical quality and safety”.

Let's hope that privacy can also get a look-in under the agency's new broom. ®

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