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Care.data is postponed

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The care.data database has continued to receive wide-ranging criticism from members of Parliament, the British Medical Association, privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch and the Association of Medical Research Charities.  So much so that the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) has been forced to try and diffuse the problem in the short-term by agreeing to delay the project by six months.

 

Members of Parliament in the UK have expressed concerns that the establishment of a centralised patient record database threatens people’s privacy and 40 per cent of family doctors have stated that they intend to opt out of the scheme. 

 

Last month we reported that privacy experts were not convinced that data security had been adequately addressed in the government’s plans for care.data, which will amalgamate medical records for the population of England.  Last week, in a parliamentary debate brought by Labour MP George Mudie, representatives from all parties supported calls for a postponement of the implementation until a proper consultation has been completed. 

 

The care.data database was due to be compiled this spring, following legislation passed in 2012.  This would see General Practitioners passing on records of all patients except those of individuals who had notified their practice that they wish to opt-out.

 

Those behind the scheme say it will improve healthcare and help advances in medical research.  According to the NHS Choices website the aim of the centralised resource is “to ensure that the best possible evidence is available to improve the quality of care for all.”  The benefits of “sharing” data to improve research and service provision are emphasised and reassurances given that data will be anonymised. 

 

Mudie voiced concerns that the confidential medical information contained in the database will be at risk.  He believes that a security breach of some kind is inevitable.  "The human cost to the patient whose identity and medical history are made public is potentially disastrous,” he said.  “Careers could be ended, jobs lost, insurance refused and relationships destroyed if sensitive medical facts are made public or used by private firms, other people or, indeed, the media."

 

Conservative MP, David Davis said that arrangements to remove names and dates of birth before the data was released to third parties were not sufficient to protect individuals’ identities.

 

The Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, faced questions from the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee.  He drew parallels with the Police National Computer claiming that its database is "widely misused."

 

Although Graham intervened last autumn, leading to a previous delay in the implementation of care.data, he stated that he couldn't formally act "until the data reaches the HSCIC as a data controller."

Jo Wise, Owner and Finance Director, The Security Company
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