Britain's NHS Computer Database - Part Of Big Brother's Evil Plan

Vernon Coleman

For some years now the NHS has been quietly planning a huge database designed to contain private medical information about every citizen in the country. (Though, naturally, I suspect that the private medical information relating to important politicians and their relatives will be excluded on `security' grounds.)

An organisation called Connecting for Health is responsible for upgrading the NHS computer system. It's the biggest civilian computer project in the world. It is utterly improper, unethical and unnecessary. It's one of Tony Blair's pet projects. (So there is, I believe, a hidden agenda. Which I will come to in a moment.) And it is doomed to inglorious failure.

The bureaucrats claim, of course, that your private and personal medical information will be well protected from snoopers.

There will be firewalls to stop hackers finding out how many times you've been depressed or infected with an embarrassing disease.

Ha ha.

Do the bureaucrats really believe that they can create firewalls which will keep hackers out?

Hackers have even got into the Pentagon's top secret computers. There is no computer system in the world which cannot be hacked into. Announcing that a system is super-safe merely provides hackers with a super-challenge.

But that's not the problem.

The problem is that when your private and personal medical records (the things you told your doctor in confidence) are put onto the computer, nothing about you will really be private again.

The NHS has already registered 298,973 staff to access your medical records.

There will be more.

Millions more.

Pharmacists (and the assistants working in the chemist's shop) will have access to your information. Hundreds of thousands of clerks and administrators in the NHS will have access to your personal and private medical history. Every secret you have shared with your doctor will be there for everyone to read.

Social workers, policemen and local authority workers will all demand access to the computer.

And they will get it.

Once every policeman in the country can read about our depressions, our irritable bowel syndromes and our miscarriages then our last vestige of privacy will be lost.

For ever.

It means that eveyone you meet or know who works for the Government (and everyone you meet or know who knows someone who works for the Government) will know everything that is in your medical records. Everything you've ever told your doctor. Everything you ever tell him in the future.

Today, many doctors don't take confidentiality seriously. Does anyone seriously expect policemen and social workers to regard confidentiality as important?

GPs have already expressed disquiet.

A poll showed that a majority of family doctors fear that the system will be vulnerable to hackers and to public officials who don't need access to your private information for your benefit.

What is left of the doctor-patient relationship will disappear.

More and more people will refuse to discuss delicate issues with their doctor.

I feel very strongly about this.

I resigned as a GP over twenty years ago, when NHS bureaucrats tried to force me to write confidential information about my patients on sick notes. I refused and was fined heavily for doing so. It seemed to me that this was a vital matter of principle. Patients are entitled to believe that what they tell their doctor in confidence is, and will remain, private. I felt that by putting diagnoses on sick notes (likely to be read by heaven knows how many people) I would be betraying that confidence. And so I resigned from the NHS and became a full time writer.

Patients who want to stop all this happening, and who don't want to have their personal medical history put onto the Government's computer, are to be told that they must write to their GP.

But, and here is the killer, GPs have been told by Sir Liam Donaldson (the Government's Chief Medical Officer) that they must forward all letters from patients who want to opt out of the central NHS computer system.

The letters must be sent on to Patricia Hewitt, the Secretary of State.

Yes, your private letter to your GP must be forwarded (with or without your consent) to the Government.

So that they know who you are.

And where you live.

Presumably so that they can give you a black mark.

And, who knows, a midnight visit from the Gestapo.

This whole wretched project is costing 20 billion. (That's the official figure. It's probably double that.) That's 333 for every man, woman and child in Britain. Billions spent on a computer system which we don't want and which probably won't work and which will destroy what remains of our privacy.

The new system has already caused 110 major computer incidents in hospitals in just four months. Lives have been put at risk after essential hospital computer systems crashed as a result of this project.

And, of course, there have been errors.

For example, one patient was wrongly listed on the computer as being an alcoholic.

Wouldn't that money be better spent on getting rid of long waiting lists, dirty wards, single sex wards and so on?

What is this computer system for?

Doctors don't want this super register of patients illnesses.

There is no logical medical need for it.

It will mean an end to patient confidentiality.

It will create problems rather than solve them.

So, what's the hidden agenda?

It's not difficult to spot.

Our medical records are being put onto this new NHS computer so that the Government can feed all the information onto our new Identity Cards.

They have already said that identity cards will contain medical information.

And this is how they plan to do it. The information from the NHS computer will simply be fed straight into the ID card system.

We must stop this now.

Tell your GP that you do not give him permission to put your medical information on to the NHS computer.

And add a PS telling him that he does not have your permission to send your letter to the Government.

We have to stop this erosion of our privacy.

Copyright Vernon Coleman December 2006