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News

NHS plans to share patient data create privacy concerns

InfoSecurity Europe : 07 November, 2008  (Technical Article)
Selective distribution of sections of patient data both inside and beyond the health service generate a range of issues concerning information security
Mike Barwise, editor of infosecurityadviser, the Web portal of the Infosecurity Europe show, has revealed he is concerned about the NHS plans to make 'additional use' of patient data.

Barwise - an established privacy advocate - says on the Infosecurity Advisor Web site that the NHS is currently conducting a consultation on the 'Additional Uses of Patient Data,' which could allow wider distribution of patient's data - both anonymously and on a named basis - within the NHS and beyond.

'The computerisation of medical records has been - and will continue to be - an enormously emotive subject, but the plain fact is that almost all NHS records are now online somewhere, and accessible to millions of staff armed only with your NHS number and the authority to access the file,' said Barwise. 'Given the government's recent record in data security, that is bad enough, but increased data sharing beyond the confines of the health service could lead to a whole new generation of privacy violations, the implications of which we can only guess at'.

Against this backdrop, Barwise is somewhat sceptical about the outcome of this consultation. He commented 'increased data sharing is going to happen whether we like it or not. What we need to do is ensure that sufficient safeguards are put in place, that they are made to work and can be shown to be working. This is an important issue that needs to be debated. Not by Parliament, and not by NHS bureaucrats, but first and foremost by us, the public. We must press for recognition that we ourselves own our medical records and should stand up for our right to determine who is entitled to access them' he said.
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