English health secretary Matt Hancock is trying to slip through a massive change to how NHS patient data is handled. He wants to take the patient records which GPs hold on everyone in England, and enter them all into one massive database. And he wants to make this data available to “third parties” – including private companies.
Matt Hancock’s plan would mean incredibly sensitive data about all of us who use the NHS – including sexual health, mental health, criminal records – being pooled and shared.
Hancock announced this plan quietly, via a single website. Health data could be used for the good of the NHS. But any changes to how our health data is handled must be done in a transparent, trustworthy, legal way. The scheme is being rushed through by stealth. Patients have been denied a meaningful say in what happens with their data. No safeguards have been included to prevent private companies using our data for their own profit.
NHS Digital is planning to transfer the sensitive medical histories of over 50 million patients registered at GPs in England to a database accessible by commercial third parties. Protect your medical data by opting out today.
The data will include diagnoses, symptoms, observations, test results, medications, allergies, immunisations, referrals, appointments, information about physical, mental and sexual health, data on sex, ethnicity, sexual orientation and more.
Though names won’t be collected, this data will only be pseudonymised. This means it will still be possible to identify patients by cross-referencing data like postcode, age and diagnosis.
The official line is that sharing this data will aid in the research and development of cures for serious illnesses, but the Government has a lot to gain by selling access to companies too. The secretive way that NHS Digital is going about this will only undermine public trust amidst an ongoing health crisis
The NHS holds a huge amount of health data. In fact, it’s the largest set of structured, machine-readable health data in the world. The data is so good thanks to the fundamental values of the NHS as a health service that cares for everyone – that means the data covers all of us, across the UK, regardless of wealth or background.
Responsible use of this data can be of huge benefit, helping improve care and develop new treatments. Patient data has helped the response to Covid, and, with proper safeguards to protect the public interest, more could be done in the future. One estimate of the value of patient data to the NHS puts it at a staggering £10 billion per year.
An asset to be stripped?
Private corporations have also spotted the value of NHS data – and are keen to cash in. They are seeking contracts from the government to provide outsourced data services to the NHS. These contracts can be lucrative in themselves – Palantir’s latest contract is for £23million – but the even bigger prize is access to the data itself. Many companies see public data as a resource they can exploit to develop highly profitable new products and services.
Government halted….a huge initial win for Campaigners in June 2021
GPs are being forced to hand over this patient data, unless patients opt-out. As a result of pressure from a range of individuals and organisations, a huge win was made in early June 2021, when the Government was forced to push back the opt-out date from 23 June until September 2021. However, this development still poses a threat and is still unfair, undemocratic and threatens to undermine patient trust in the NHS. It remains that the COVID-19 pandemic is being used as a guise to push through opportunities for private companies to share NHS GP patient data without the consent of patients, and this must be STOPPED.
****OPT OUT !!!!
Information from MedConfidential about the opt-out process is here
You will need to fill out the opt-out form here and take this to your GP