Data includes weight, cholesterol, BMI, family health history and pulse rate Doctors will be forced to reveal alcohol consumption and smoking status Privacy campaigners described it as ‘biggest data grab in NHS history’ Part of new Health Service programme called Everyone Counts Officials insisted data will be anonymous and deleted after analysis GPs are to be forced to hand over confidential records on all their patients’ drinking habits, waist sizes and illnesses.
The files will be stored in a giant information bank that privacy campaigners say represents the ‘biggest data grab in NHS history’. They warned the move would end patient confidentiality and hand personal information to third parties.
The data includes weight, cholesterol levels, body mass index, pulse rate, family health history, alcohol consumption and smoking status.
Diagnosis of everything from cancer to heart disease to mental illness would be covered. Family doctors will have to pass on dates of birth, postcodes and NHS numbers.
Officials insisted the personal information would be made anonymous and deleted after analysis.
But Ross Anderson, professor of security engineering at Cambridge University, said: ‘Under these proposals, medical confidentiality is, in effect, dead and there is currently nobody standing in the way.’ Nick Pickles, of the privacy group Big Brother Watch, said NHS managers would now be in charge of our most confidential information.
He added: ‘It is unbelievable how little the public is being told about what is going on, while GPs are being strong-armed into handing over details about their patients and to not make a fuss.
‘Not only have the public not been told what is going on, none of us has been asked to give our permission for this to happen.’
Campaigners for privacy: They warn the move would end patient confidentiality and hand personal information to third parties
GPs will be required to send monthly updates on their patients to a central database run by the NHS’s Health and Social Care Information Centre.
Health chiefs will be able to demand information on every patient, such as why they have been referred to a consultant. Another arm of the NHS will supply data on patient prescriptions.
In a briefing for GPs, health chiefs admit that ‘patient identifiable components’ will be demanded, including post code and date of birth.
NHS officials insist the information centre will be a ‘safe haven’ for personal data, which will be deleted soon after it is received.
The information will be used to analyse demand for services and improve treatment. But a document outlining the scheme even raises the prospect of clinical data being passed on or sold to third parties.
It states: ‘The patient identifiable components will not be released outside the safe haven except as permitted by the Data Protection Act.
‘HSCIC … will store the data and link it only where approved and necessary, ensuring that patient confidentiality is protected.’
Patients will not be able to opt out of the system. Before the election the Tories condemned the creation of huge databases – including the controversial NHS IT project – and insisted it would roll back ‘Labour’s database state’.
( via dailymail.co.uk )