David Davis states ‘It is frankly unacceptable for the NHS to attempt to bully those GPs to break their own duty of confidentiality to their patients.’


As published in the Daily Mail:
Insurers could use new NHS database to track you down within 2 hours.

Controversial plans to harvest details from every patient’s medical file are high risk and concerning’, an NHS data expert warned yesterday.

Professor Sir Brian Jarman said insurers and drug firms would be able to identify patients in just a couple of hours, even though health bosses insist the information will be stored anonymously.

Sir Brian, a world expert on hospital data, said it would be quite wrong’ if information patients had given GPs in confidence was sold on to private firms.

A growing number of doctors and MPs have spoken out against the NHS Care.data scheme, which is expected to begin next month.

Unless patients objection to their GP, details about their illnesses, medication and tests or scans will be taken from their medical notes and stored on a huge computer database.

Officials say it will be used to improve treatment and services by exposing areas of poor care. But experts fear the information will be sold to insurers and drugs firms.

The NHS also insists the data will be stored anonymously, including only the patient’s date of birth and hospital number.

But Sir Brian claimed it would take profit-making firms such as insurers just two hours to identify patients from this data alone.

He said many of these companies already have lists of the public’s names and addresses, so it would be simple for them to cross-refer the details. If an insurer discovered that one of their customers had a particular medical complaint or drank more alcohol than recommended, he fears they could increase premiums.

Sir Brian said: I’ve spoken to analysts who say they can match individual people within a couple of hours. Many organisations, such as insurance companies, hold details of people that include not only name but also postcode, date of birth and gender, which would make it possible to identify named individuals in postcodes and thus have access to their confidential medical information in the Care.data database.

There is simply too much data and the risks that something leaks are too great.’

Sir Brian said patients should be given the right to opt into the scheme – rather than NHS officials assuming they can take the data unless they hear otherwise.

I do think it is quite wrong that confidential information that patients give to their general practitioner should be put into a national database and access to it sold to pharmaceutical companies,’ he added.

I would prefer patients to opt in to its use, knowing about the pros and cons of doing so.’

David Davis, the Conservative MP for Haltemprice and Howden, East Yorkshire, this week accused officials of trying to strongarm family doctors into complying.

He added: It is frankly unacceptable for the NHS to attempt to bully those GPs to break their own duty of confidentiality to their patients.’

He said he refused to accept that patients would not be identifiable from the records, saying a person’s medical file was like their fingerprint and could easily lead to them being identified.

He added: I have had my nose broken five times. Once you know that, I’m probably in a group of 100 people in England. Then you figure out when I had my diptheria jab, usually done at birth. Bang, you got me.’

The project is being overseen by NHS England – the body in charge of the health service – and is expected to cost the taxpayer £50million.

Patients can opt out by telling their family doctor, with some surgeries allowing patients to object over the phone or during an appointment. Others require patients to opt out in writing by letter or email.

But at least four GPs are defying NHS officials by opting out all the thousands of patients on their books except those who agree to take part.

They include Dr Gordon Gancz from Oxford, who was warned by NHS England this week that his actions could cost him his job.

Officials have also threatened to track down other rebel’ GPs by looking out for areas where high numbers of patients have opted out when the project gets under way next month.

Many other GPs are also deeply concerned, including Dr Neil Bhatia, from Yateley, Hampshire, who said NHS officials had resorted to threatening’ tactics. Dr Bhatia, who has set up a website to inform patients about the controversial scheme, said: It’s an implied threat.

If suddenly 99.9 per cent of patients opt out, they will come down and say, “Have you opted patients out en masse?”.’

An NHS England spokesman said: Before today, we agreed with the British Medical Association and the Royal College of GPs that we would work with them to review cases of abnormal numbers of patient objections. However, this review will take place once extractions begin, not before.’