20 MARCH 2014
Lauren Clare Chappell
Sick of the NHS reforms
fter masses of bad press about the National Health Service, and 41% of GP’s saying they intend to opt-out; there is no question about why we’re all sceptical of the new NHS reforms. The reforms are easy accessible online if you know where you’re looking but funny enough the policy care.data is tightly hidden inside a 36 page document called ’Everyone Counts’. The main problem that is highlighted with care.data is that it is not secure. Having an online database that holds all of our personal information on is more than daunting. It would be helpful in a medical emergency, or even in general referral between hospitals but the main concern is that it runs a bigger risk of all our personal details being reused. All our personal details on one databases is just asking to end badly. Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch, said: ‘To claim a database that includes your NHS number, date of birth and postcode is anonymous is simply not true. The risks of re-identification on a mass scale are very real and do not seem to have been taken into account at all.’ Which only supports our fears that a online data base will be very dangerous. 34 | NEW STATESMEN | 21-27 MARCH 2014
Members of The NHS Constitution claim that it is vital that we have a system like care.data put in as it will make the NHS more accurate and efficient. The information that will be stored will be everything from your date of birth, post code, drinking habits and even whether you have been diagnosed with cancer or mental illness.
The transfer of patients’ records without their consent could breach patient confidentiality What makes this situation worse is that we have not been informed as well as we should have been about what is going on, nor was any permission asked of those that have been involved. It has been very vague from the beginning on how we could opt out if we felt necessary. The British Medical Association and privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch said ‘the transfer of patients’ records without their consent could breach patient confidentiality and damage trust in doctors.’ Do we need anymore distrust in our health service? The reforms have caused mass
distrust in the NHS with ‘only 15% that believed the sector’s culture even slightly encourages change’ according to a Gaurdian survey. Tim Kelsey, national director for patients and information at the NHS Commissioning Board, combatted this by saying ‘This does not put patient confidentiality at any risk. Data quality in the NHS needs to improve: it is no longer acceptable that at this given moment no one can be sure exactly how many patients are currently receiving chemotherapy for example.’ This is a serious problem and not knowing information like this can have a bad repercussions but is an computerised database the only option we have? A BMA spokesmen stated that they do like the new reforms but are not fully satisfied with the way it has been handled ‘sharing patient data to help inform commissioning decisions is an important process that can help to improve the NHS services, but it must only be done with strict safeguards in place. Patients must be given the option to opt out of any scheme that seeks to transfer identifiable information about them from their records to another source.’ It seems there is no two ways about it we need a system that works and is safe for those involved. Until then the only option to keep our personal information safe is to opt out.
“I wasn’t feeling ill, doctor, until I started hearing about the N.H.S reforms” N.H.S reforms by Mike Turner
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