A: When we're talking about your confidential medical records.
Most of you will already be aware of the Government's £11 billion 'Connecting for Health' scheme; which includes – among its several provisions – a plan to upload all of our medical records onto an enormous central database, accessible by seemingly anyone in the NHS.
These 'summary care records' are supposed to first be requested by your local GP, who offers you the opportunity to opt out.
From the Daily Telegraph this morning:
The British Medical Association claims that records have been placed on the system without patients’ knowledge or consent.
It follows allegations that the Government wanted to complete the project before the Conservatives had a chance to cancel it.
In a letter to ministers published today, the BMA urges the Government to suspend the scheme. Hamish Meldrum, its chairman, writes: "The breakneck speed with which this programme is being implemented is of huge concern.
"Patients’ right to opt out is crucial, and it is extremely alarming that records are apparently being created without them being aware of it.
"If the process continues to be rushed, not only will the rights of patients be damaged, but the limited confidence of the public and the medical profession in NHS IT will be further eroded."
The first point to note is that it is the BMA making this complaint: a body representing the very people whose lives these summary care records would apparently make much easier. But then, the BMA are far more concerned with the rights of the patient, unlike the politicians ramming this project through.
Medical records look set to be a big battleground at the forthcoming election and it is extremely important that our rights to privacy and concerns over the creation of yet another leaky state database are not ignored.
Big Brother Watch is currently conducting research into the security of our medical records, which we hope to release in the near future. In the meantime, if one of these letters lands on your doormat, we advise you to take-up the offer and opt out.
By Dylan Sharpe