Another government attempt at confidential data snatching from the NHS?

My first thought was ‘here we go again’, but as the Dave ‘n’ Gid partnership seems intent on selling as much as they can, especially if it will ease the way to privatisation, I believe this might be a more sinister move.

(The images are my addition.)

From Anthony Gold Solicitors via

The Prime Minister has indicated that he wishes for most patients to have access to a GP in the evening and at weekends by the end of the year.

As part of the investigation into this proposal, the government has asked the IT companies involved in provision of GP records, appointments and administration for a large amount of data.

0313-electronic-med-records-630x420Some of the data is highly confidential and has the potential to allow for identification of the patient.

In particular it is suggested that the requested information includes the number of appointments, the date of birth of  the person attending, the reason for the consultation and, it is suggested, part postcodes. From this information, if provided, the patient should be identifiable in most cases. In any event the plan appears to include a provision for encrypting information with the ability to de-encrypt it at a later date. Whilst that may or may not make sending the information secure, it still allows for identification of individual patients.

There are several issues about this suggested information provision.

Firstly the government had to delay the previously suggested plans for data provision from GPs in the face of significant concern about anonymity and confidentiality. This was the scheme which is still due to be put in place at some date in the future, whereby GPs would provide similar and even more detailed information about patients.

Secondly the general public has not been consulted on these proposals or indeed why such information is required.

Thirdly as the IT companies have made clear, it is not their role to  provide information of this kind. That is the decision of GP and patient. Their job is simply to process any information and to provide systems by which GPs can undertake their work.

Leaving aside whether GPs  and their patients would agree to this or any other proposal, the question that needs to be addressed is why is the government so interested in confidential medical data?

The last proposals which were temporarily shelved in 2014 seemed to be as much about serving the interests of the insurance and pharmaceutical industries as forming a database for independent medical research to inform the medical profession. This latest suggestion appears to be more about identifying patients using the service and whether their appointments are “appropriate”.

There is no doubt that the provision of a 24 hour proper GP service which doesn’t involve queuing in the local hospital for hours on end after waiting for hours for the on call team to decide that they cannot do what is needed, would be a bonus. Looking through my cases where clients have become ill at the weekends, it is clear that there are more delays in receiving appropriate treatment at that time and some of those delays lead to clinical negligence claims.  

However, using this or indeed any other issue as a basis for identifying patients and accessing confidential information is not appropriate. Whatever the reason for the interest in data snatching, whether commercial or administrative, it should cause concern.  There are clearly ways of  calculating the need for 24 hour care without accessing confidential information about individuals who use the NHS. Patients are entitled to know their medical history is protected.

There are also other ways of determining whether more claims arise from weekend care. After all the bulk of the claims are dealt with by just three organisations; the NHSLA, the MDU and the MPS.

This proposal may get no further than the previous ones. However, it does appear that the government has designs on  finding out what is in your records whether you want them to or not.  Whether that is to find out how much you cost the NHS, whether your insurer would be concerned or some other reason, frankly what is in your records is no one else’s business. We should fight to keep it that way.





The Monday Morning Quote #328

“Simplify everything.

Abandoning the non-essentials leaves more room for you to attract.”

Thomas Leonard


The Monday Morning Quote #327

“The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read or write,

but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

Alvin Toffler, futurist


The Weekend Read – Better by Atul Gawande

Unknown If Atul Gawande is anything like as good a surgeon as he is a writer and thinker then his patients are in good hands.

Subtitled, “A Surgeons Notes on Performance” the author looks at medicine in a variety of locations from battlefields in Iraq, through courtrooms to maternity suites and specialities including treating polio outbreaks and cystic fibrosis.

His premise is that we should be looking to do things better and his preoccupation is what makes the difference between getting it right 99.95% rather than “just” 99.5% of the time. The eleven essays are grouped under three headings, “Diligence”, “Doing Right” and “Ingenuity” and as usual with Gawande’s writing pose significant questions not least of which is the opener, “what does it take to be good at something in which failure is so easy, so effortless?”

He makes one very significant point in that most of us will turn out to be average – it has to be like that – but what can we do about it? His answer is that settling for it is not acceptable and we must seek to improve individually in order that the collective also improves – to do that we must look long and hard at our own performance and take whatever action is required to get better.

An excellent read.

Available from Amazon here.

Monday 13th July 2015 – Cardiff and a very happy day.

When I passed my finals in 1978 my father sent me a note which read, “Alun, Congratulations. It was your day but you made it ours as well. We will celebrate when we meet. Dad.”

37 years on, I have written a similar note to our son but can also share my good wishes in different way. Today, 13th July 2015, at 11am or thereabouts  he graduates.

So, Will, thanks for letting us share your success.


The Monday Morning Quote #326

“There has never been a day when I have not been proud of you, I said to my son,

though some days I’m louder about other stuff so it’s easy to miss that.”

From StoryPeople

The Monday Morning Quote #325

“The more rules and procedures you impose the less creative and compassionate your people will become”

Lisa Rodrigues – lisasays it could be you

The Weekend Read. Start with Why by Simon Sinek.

514qKTf1PRLWith a sub-title of “How great leaders inspire everyone to take action” this book sets its stall out from the very start. Simon Sinek first came to my attention when I watched his celebrated Ted Talk (see below) and I was wary that this book would be “just” another “how to beat the competition by playing the same games” book.

I couldn’t have been more mistaken, the author examined individuals that have had great success in many different fields and walks of life and he found that they all have things in common they all think, act and communicate in the same way. He refers to this as “The Golden Circle” and it all starts with the word WHY..

Most organisations can explain what it does, many can tell you how they do it but there are very few who can say WHY they do what they do. Incidentally it’s not money or profits, those are the results.

This book helped me hugely to get clear what it is that I do by making me confront, embrace and celebrate the reasons WHY I do it.

It will do the same for you.

Available from Amazon here.

Here’s Simon’s 5 minute TED talk.

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