GPs threaten to boycott NHS database

3797160719_337b4742e7_bThe Daily Mail reports that GPs are threatening to boycott the new NHS system.

Their concerns are entirely reasonable. Patients have had zero direct communication from the NHS about the program, patient information posters are wholly uninformative and have only been displayed in GP surgeries, rather than being sent to patients. If you don’t visit your GP every few weeks then it’s likely you wouldn’t see the poster before it was too late (and even if you did read the poster, it’s likely you’ll have no idea what it’s talking about.)

Previously we applauded that patients had won the choice of deciding what would happen with their medical records, and that existing opt-outs would be honored. Speaking at the time, the Secretary of State for Health said: ”GPs will not share information with the HSCIC if people object…people will have a veto on that information being shared in the wider system”

For GPs to threaten to boycott the system brings into serious question whether this is still the case. According to the Mail, Dr Jane Lothian,  a GP and medical secretary of Northumberland Local Medical Committee (LMC), said patients were not getting ‘an informed choice’.

We wholly agree. The summary care record – which dealt with far less medical data – was preceded by a six month information campaign and every NHS patient recieved a letter detailing what was happening and giving them the right to opt out.

It should not be possible for the entire content of a medical record to be uploaded to a system without patients being able to make a choice, particularly when the system is not involved in the direct primary care of patients.

Of course, it is also the case that under data protection law patients have legal rights and if the NHS does not respect those rights then we will expect the Information Commissioner’s Office to intervene and enforce the law.



  1. and again
    24th September 2013

    It is good to hear that GPs are finally seeing the enormity of the government’s intentions to share identifiable data. I have already opted out of this latest crazy idea.

    The problem is that so many patients do not understand what they are agreeing to (or not agreeing to but being opted in behind their back). Patients need more education about data protection generally so that they understand what the government is planning. Some believe that sharing data is good for treatment but they do not realise that the government wants (and already does) share medical data for all sorts of reasons that are NOT directly related to patient care. Every hospital appointment, every in patient stay is shared with the NHS health and social care information centre (HSCIC) and then shared with all and sundry for a whole variety of reasons. These data include identifiable data already but no one makes this clear to patients. Also patients CAN choose not to allow their data to be shared even when a Section 251 is in place (this allows them to share data without asking the patient for consent) but are patients informed of this? Too much of these practices are to benefit the government and their aim for the biggest health database in the world. It has nothing to do with doing right by the patient.

    The ICO needs to be much more proactive when it comes to patient data and all the sharing that goes on behind our backs.

    GPs need to stand strong on this. They are supposed to look after our health and not be manipulated by the government to become (if they are not already) collectors and providers of patient data.

  2. martiin brighton
    27th September 2013

    There are already pilot schemes operating where the designated authority ( usually councils ) collects and collates ALL personal information – medical, criminal, ( psychiatric ), social service, etc.
    The government calls it ‘joined up working’.
    However, locally, the information is being used as a weapon, threatening sanctions and exposure if the target does not comply with the council’s dictat.
    Your personal data cannot be shared with any third party without your explicit prior consultation and consent. This government attempts to circumvent the law by imposing projects fait accompli, and then claiming consent ‘on the basis of no objections’ – have of course first disempowered the targets from refusing consent.
    There will be many more such attempts at monetising our personal information.

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    […] GPs threaten to boycott NHS database (Big Brother Watch) […]