David Davis: Response to Sir Simon Wessely’s comments on patient records and planned care.data database


As published in Politics Home:
David Davis: Response to Sir Simon Wessely’s comments on patient records and planned care.data database

In response to Sir Simon Wessely’s comments regarding patient records and the planned care.data database, Sir David Davis says:

“I have no doubt that Sir Simon Wessely is a brilliant psychologist, but I am afraid his grip of the Department of Health planned database is less secure.

“He claims that there are risks associated with information in GP surgeries. This may be true, but you do not reduce one risk by adding another to it, as the NHS database will do nothing to make GP surgeries more secure.

“What is more GP surgeries, because their internal databases are reasonably small, are not attractive to hackers. A huge national database with enormous quantities of very sensitive data and large numbers of access points will be a veritable ‘honeypot’, and like other such big databases will attract a large number of attempts to hack into it.

“Secondly, he says that ‘GCHQ could crack the database but probably no one else’. He is clearly unaware of the fact that amateur hackers have broken into the databases of the Pentagon, Microsoft, Sony, and only this weekend Kickstarter, all organisations with significantly greater IT skill than the Department of Health. Thirdly he says that he is ‘not aware of any breaches that have led to harm to individuals’, that is probably because the Department of Health was so incompetent that it is responsible for one of the greatest IT failures in human history, the NHS Spine, which was so badly run it had to be cancelled before it started at enormous loss to the taxpayer.

“If this database is so valuable it should be sold to the public on that basis, encouraging the public to ‘opt in’ rather than what is currently happening, with the Government assuming consent and doing the minimum possible to inform people of both the benefits and risks. If only 1 in 10 people opted in it would still amount to 6 million records, easily big enough to do the job of detecting drug and disease correlations. This would also have the advantage that it might be of a size that the Department of Health is capable of managing.

“It really is time that doctors took their duty of confidentiality seriously and understood the real risks of these databases, even if the technology is not familiar to them. There is no doubt that there could be significant benefits from this technology, but it will not be achieved by trying to push ahead without the public’s explicit consent for the use of their private records.”