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ARTICLE 1: An unhealthy invasion of privacy ARTICLE 1

This article can be used to support Lesson 1: English ARTICLE

An unhealthy invasion of privacy How can the NHS proceed with a plan to breach 50 million people's privacy when its record on data security is so bad? The news that the privacy of millions of patients is to be breached by the NHS underlines the first rule of government databases, which is that once any part of the state acquires personal information it comes to regard that data – however sensitive – as the state's property. The second rule is also confirmed by the proposal to allow medical researchers access to 50 million records in order to identify patients who might be willing to take part in trials of new drugs. It is that once data is centralised by government or one of its agencies, the function of that database is quietly extended beyond its original purpose and the way it was promoted to the public. Such measures are always presented as making life easier and safer for the individual, but this pretended concern is always swiftly forgotten. Harry Cayton who is about to take over the Information Governance Board for Health put his finger on it when he said, "There is pressure from research and from the prime minister to beef up British Research. They want a mechanism by which people's clinical records could be accessed for the purposes of inviting them to take part in research." On security grounds alone this will be a disaster. In September Pulse reported that four out of five NHS trust have lost patient data or suffered security breaches since the beginning of last year. There have been more than 1,300 incidents since last year. Figures obtained by Pulse under the Freedom of Information Act showed that there were 557 incidents of lost data and 794 breaches of confidentiality. These included a report that staff at Northampton General Hospital NHS Trust were disciplined after posting pictures of a patient on Facebook. There are other reports of staff emailing patient records to their personal computers before leaving the NHS.


At the time of this report Dr Chris Frith, a GP in Hereford, said: "All breaches of confidentiality, electronic or otherwise, have a subtle detrimental effect on the patient's trust of their clinicians." That must be true but the problem with government is that it continues to expand the databases and access to them without ever addressing these security issues. Only Computer Weekly last month noticed 300 million patient records with patient identifiable information, such as dates of birth, post codes and NHS numbers – have been transferred to academic institutions. Who has control over these records? Who has the ability to check that they are not being abused? The larger point to make is that under Labour, government has shown an increasing sense of entitlement over not just our personal data, but over our bodies and biological integrity. Little by little we are being required to give up more of ourselves to the state – fingerprints, iris measurements, the DNA of innocent people – and this arrogance about patient records fits the pattern of presumption. Gordon Brown's belief that all of us should be organ donors unless we opt out is part of this new trend and is typical of the convinced authoritarian who stresses hazily defined needs of the collective good over the wishes and integrity of the individual. You see that attitude run right through government plans from the horrific children's database, ContactPoint, which will give access to a million people, to the ID card's national identity register, which will be open to scores of government agencies as well a foreign law enforcement officials from Palermo to Potsdam. What Britain needs is proper privacy legislation, which, like the South African Constitution, guarantees biological integrity as well as ensuring that personal data remains exactly that. It's your body, and your life; not theirs Henry Porter Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/henryporter/2008/nov/17/nhs-privacy

Article 1 An unhealthy invasion of privacy  

On security grounds alone this will be a disaster. In September Pulse reported that four out of five NHS trust have lost patient data or suf...

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