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Opting Out – a response to the DoH

Our new report – Broken Records - is  an audit of the current levels of security surrounding confidential medical records in the NHS.

The Department of Health have issued the following response to our research:

we have made it very clear that it is completely unacceptable
for staff with no involvement in providing and supporting patient care
to access confidential information

In our opinion this does not tackle the key points made in the report – namely, that the NHS is in breach of both the European Court of Human Rights Judgement in I v Finland and Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights which provides for the right to respect for private and family life.

Instead they claim we have 'muddled' paper and online records. We have done no such thing. It doesn't matter what format records are in, if the wrong kind of staff can look at them, and look without good reason, this constitutes a security breach.

SCR Letter At present it is the NHS patient records system that is muddled between paper and online records – but this could change very soon. As we make clear in the report, the Government's National Programme for IT (NPfIT) is slowly rolling-out across the country at great expense and, as was revealed by the British Medical Association (BMA) earlier this month, with very little regard for patient privacy.

To read about the full horrors of this system, please do head to The Big Opt Out – the website of the NHS Confidentiality campaign, which was set up to protect patient confidentiality and to provide a focus for patient-led opposition the government’s NHS Care Records System.

You may have already received a letter similar to the one on the right (click the picture to see a larger version) – we have received emails and calls from people who have found it difficult to find the 'opt out' form.

To opt out of the summary care record, simply click the link below:

http://www.connectingforhealth.nhs.uk/systemsandservices/scr/documents/optout.pdf

This takes you to the official NHS opt out document. Print off page 3 and send it to your local GP.

Until the NHS and Department of Health can get their act together on medical record security, we urge you all to opt out.

By Dylan Sharpe

Posted on by Big Brother Watch Posted in Home

15 Responses to Opting Out – a response to the DoH

  1. alastair

    There is a certain irony in today’s coverage in that it is certainly the case that much of the problem of (potential) unauthorised access to patent records *could* be eliminated by means of the use of a properly secured centralised database, for which the number of IT staff required to administer the system (who would, necessarily, have some degree of access to records as a result) could be minimised.
    Interestingly I’m not sure about the relative merits of using Google Health, Microsoft Health Vault or a government run system. It seems to me that in all cases there is a risk that the data might be lost or abused. The main worrying features of the government’s system are the notion that ministers might be able to access the data and their poor track record on big IT projects. But all three surely should raise concerns about privacy issues; e.g. how do Google or Microsoft protect the data held in their care? How do we know that they will not misuse it? Or that they will even tell us if they suffer a security breach? And what if some of it is of a nature that is sensitive to national security? (e.g. Prime ministerial illness, or medical information about intelligence personnel that might be used to identify their involvement in covert activity.)

  2. Richard

    Of course non-medical staff will have access to medical records. How else would a medical secretary do her job? Or a clinical coder record the care that had been done? Or a medical records clerk do the filing? This is just scaremongering and NHS bashing of the very worst kind.

  3. zorro

    Someone I doubt if the PMs details would be on any such medical system which could be viewed in the same way as ours. It’s like that on the Inland Revenue/HMRC records. Some really are more equal than others…..

  4. Redacted

    zorro: there is in fact a provision for some people to be excluded from the database on police advice. This would be if they are a “public figure” or in a witness protection scheme or something like that. So you are right, the people in charge of it probably won’t be on it, unlike the rest of us.
    Which is odd given that it’s supposed to be so fantastically secure and all that.

  5. Redacted

    Richard: I don’t think anybody is bashing the NHS, that is just an organisation that takes orders from the government.
    The government has decided to implement a computer network system that hugely increases the number of people with direct access to patient medical records. The BMA is against it and describes the scheme as not properly thought out. Any patient benefit is likely to be limited to people with specific medical conditions. For the great bulk of people it just represents the end of their previously confidential interactions with their GP surgery.

  6. zorro

    Redacted – you are quite right. This really should be a clincher anyway but thankfully I will not be uplifted to the spine as I have already opted out…..

  7. Lamkyns

    In the end, anyone with a dot.gov.uk email address will be able to access all the data held about you by the government, local authorities, NHS etc. When data sharing orders come in, your nhs.doctor.gov.uk will have access to your mastercard bills including how much you’ve spent at the off licence. My advice: opt out of the NHS database. The big opt out letter is here for you to send to your GP: http://www.thebigoptout.com/?page_id=3
    And, don’t use debit/credit cards, at least not at the offie.

  8. [email protected]

    “there is in fact a provision for some people to be excluded from the database on police advice. This would be if they are a “public figure” or in a witness protection scheme or something like that.”
    And people like Jon Venables.

  9. Redacted

    alastair: I think there is still a great deal of reticence in organisations generally about outsourcing data storage to the cuddly google/microsoft/amazon/etc. cloud. I share that reticence.
    The cloud is probably a good place to store published files that are free for anyone to download and that sort of thing but in my opinion, and plenty other people’s too, it is no place for sensitive or critical data, for reasons that should be obvious. I think you are quite right to be dubious about its use in this context.
    David Davis wrote a piece on the subject in The Times back in July.
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article6728116.ece

  10. billy

    Scots weren’t told about the option to opt out when our records were computerized a couple of years ago. BBC employees and footballers have had their records hacked..
    http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/2008/12/04/probe-after-doctor-snoops-on-medical-records-of-bbc-and-old-firm-stars-86908-20944310/

  11. zorro

    I rang the NHS helpline re opting out just to see what advice they would give. The conversation went as follows….
    (Ansafone) – ‘This message will be recorded and used for training purposes’…usual blurb….Then…
    (Operator)…’Hello this is the NHS helpline, this conversation is being recorded and before you say anything I want to ask you a couple of questions, what is your postcode and…?
    (Me) ‘Hold on a second, I just want to confirm that I just needed to print off the form to opt out and check that I hand it into the surgery. Is that all?’…
    (Operator)…’Oh,yes, just fill it in and take it to your doctor.
    (Me)…’Great, thanks for that…’
    (Operator)…’Oh, before you go, Could you just answer a couple of questions. What is your post code, gender and date of birth?
    (Me)…’No thanks…I just wanted some information…’
    (Operator)…’Oh,Ok’….
    Somehow, I don’t think that they get it…

  12. Mary

    There is also a problem in the NHS that patient records, if incorrect, cannot ever be corrected, on account of being scanned and computerised.
    I’m amazed that this has gone unchallenged, since there is a legal obligation to ensure that records kept are accurate, yet no facility was built into the system to enable this, and as such, where an error is pointed out, all they can do is add to the record, but the original error is indelible.

  13. Wirkal

    The Health Insurance Act and the implantation of RFID in the U.S.
    Links and video:
    http://discernthesignsofthetimes.blogspot.com/2010/03/health-insurance-act-and-implantation.html

  14. new jordans

    I hope you all have a blessed day

  15. Shox TL1 Shoes

    does not tackle the key points made in the report – namely, that the NHS is in breach of both the European Court of Human Rights Judgement in I v Finland and Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights which provides for the right to respect for private and family life.
    Instead they claim we have ‘muddled’ paper

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