Coalition U-turn on NHS database

Guy Aitchison
4 June 2010

Barely a few weeks into government and the coalition has performed an appalling U-turn on civil liberties, announcing that it will continue to build the Summary Care Record of medical data. The hypocrisy is total. As Alex Deane of the invaluable Big Brother Watch reports:

This contradicts the Conservative position outlined last year: 'A Conservative government would "dismantle" central NHS IT infrastructure, halt and renegotiate NPfIT local service provider contracts and introduce interoperable local systems.'

It also contradicts the Liberal Democrat position outlined this year, when Norman Lamb, then Liberal Democrat health spokesman, said: "The Government needs to end its obsession with massive central databases. The NHS IT scheme has been a disastrous waste of money and the national programme should be abandoned."

The Summary Care Record - part of the £11 billion "Connecting for Health" scheme -  is a database that will store records of all major illnesses, allergies, prescriptions etc. Unless you opt out of the scheme then implied consent is presumed and your records will be uploaded. The data is available to NHS personnel across England and Wales and pharmacists are already lobbying to be given access to check and amend the records. Needless to say, this will deliver a serious invasion of privacy.

Two weeks ago OK reported that this U-turn may be on the cards, as scrapping the SCR didn't form part of the civil liberties agenda set out by the coalition and records were still being uploaded to the database. We joined in the letter writing campaign to the new Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, to tell him to ditch the database. But to little avail, it seems. Yesterday health minister Simon Burns announced in response to a parliamentary question that the scheme will continue. What we need to be told is why this costly and intrusive scheme is continuing given both parties said that it wouldn't. It doe not bode well.

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals

To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.

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