Q: When is an optional opt out not an option..?

A: When we're talking about your confidential medical records.

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

Posted by on Mar 10, 2010 in Databases | 15 Comments


  1. Jeremy Hower
    10th March 2010

    This is the typical and archetypal response of this gov now – ramming things through whether you like it or not. It applies to e-borders, ID cards, DNA database, internet surveillance and proposed cut offs, CRBs, HIPs and of course terrorism powers…
    This also shows us why opt outs (e.g such as proposed opt out for organ donation) cannot be trusted.

  2. alastair harris
    10th March 2010

    so how do you find out?

  3. Rebel Saint
    10th March 2010

    Of course choosing to “opt out” doesn’t actually mean they will opt you out! So the back-up plan is to mess up their data sets so they can’t “monitor” you so effectively (…all for your own benefit of course).
    Spell your surname a slightly different way on each form you complete or even go double barrelled, make your postcode unit different, do they really need to know your exact birthday etc?

  4. Redacted
    10th March 2010

    In my view, our government is completely naive about networks and databases. It is jumping onto the tail end of a bandwagon that swept through industry some time ago and is implementing solutions intended for one context in another, entirely different one.
    I’ve received “the official letter” about this, which assures me that “there are strict security measures in place to protect your information”. Can anybody read such a sentence today without a snort of derision? Sorry, but I have experience of reality and will believe that when pigs fly. Making data available to more people is the opposite of a security measure.
    The letter slyly tries to worry you that if you opt out you may be at risk if you are taken ill away from home because clinicians won’t have access to important medical information about you. However if you are worried about that you could write such information on a card and carry it in your wallet couldn’t you? Many people already do.
    Include me out.

  5. Snakey
    10th March 2010

    The letter I received made it quite clear that in order to opt out I have to travel 10 miles to a surgery that is not my own and take 3 pieces of identification with me. It appears to me that they have made it as difficult as possible to opt out of this system.

  6. Victor Cardiss
    10th March 2010

    Look a little closer and you’ll find that it isn’t actually a government database… The data (just the same as the National/Global ID card system) will be held by a private company who will make a small charge of around 0.70p every time it is accessed.
    Your local clinic/surgery/practice may be funded by the NHS but it will be a private medical practice.
    Our National Health Service has been fully privatised in a stealthy way that keeps you from noticing.
    Pension provision is next… soon there’ll be no government ‘anything’… It’ll all be hived off to big business… paid for by you and me the taxpayer.
    By the way…. the private, ran for profit business that will be storing all of our medical data is the same company that almost all the other countries in the world will be using for their medical database… call me paranoid but…

  7. Redacted
    10th March 2010

    Snakey: You may find this site worth visiting.
    In the news section is a link to the official opt out form as .pdf that you can download print and deliver to your own GP. Also some info and their own opt out letter, but I’d use the official form at this point I think.

  8. LeChiffre
    10th March 2010

    The chance of data leaking to where it should not be = the number of people with access to it to the power of two. (So wrote Tom Clancy in Red October!) There are at least 300,000 snoopers with email addresses which end in dot gov dot uk; do the arithmetic and be appalled.
    Don’t wait to get the official letter; call me paranoid but they probably aren’t sending them out to everyone anyway.
    Don’t wait for the official letter: send in your own opt-out notification by email, fax and post. You can compose it from the template here:
    I used this template and faxed it (duly signed) to my doctor with a ‘hard’ copy in the post; she acknowledged receipt and confirmed I was opted-out – no need for me to travel to a surgery or show ID. (I still have not received the official letter.)

  9. Chat Roulette
    11th March 2010

    I am seriously paranoid about this. Reading this should make everyone think twice.

  10. Redacted
    11th March 2010

    The letter also states that “Authorised NHS healthcare staff will be the only people allowed to access your Summary Care Record”, which suggest “front-line clinicians” on the face of it. But if that is what it means then the statement is, I understand, flatly untrue unless government bureaucrats now count as “clinicians”.
    Can you imagine this goverment spending hundreds of millions on a system like this and missing the chance to allow access to all that lovely personal data to their various bedfellows, and naturally to their pale-faced policy-androids who will be able to abuse all those lovely numbers when next it is time to overrule expert advice regarding NHS funding and operational decisions? No, nor can I.

  11. LeChiffre
    12th March 2010

    Quite: mission creep is all around us.

  12. Matt
    22nd March 2010

    I am not a paranoid person but this has me spooked.

  13. Triumph motorcycle helmets
    27th July 2010

    some seriously spooky stuff. Brr

  14. taobao shop
    15th January 2011

    Um…like the style of your writing.*_*

  15. taobao china
    25th January 2011

    Fantastic night shot with great colors and reflections. Happy new year!