November 1st, 2006 at 12:14 UTC by Richard Clayton
The front page lead in today’s Guardian explains how personal medical data (including details of mental illness, abortions, pregnancy, drug taking, alcohol abuse, fitting of colostomy bags etc etc) are to be uploaded to a central NHS database regardless of patients’ wishes.
The Government claims that especially sensitive data can be put into a “sealed envelope” which would not ordinarily be available… except that NHS staff will be able to “break the seal” under some circumstances; the police and Government agencies will be able to look at the whole record — and besides, this part of the database software doesn’t even exist yet, and so the system will be running without it for some time.
The Guardian has more details in the article: From cradle to grave, your files available to a cast of thousands, some comments from doctors and other health professionals: A national database is not essential and a leading article: Spine-chilling.
The Guardian give details on how to opt-out of data sharing: What can patients do? using suggestions for a letter from our own Ross Anderson who has worked on medical privacy for over a decade (see his links to relevant research).
If you are concerned (and in my view, you really should be — once your data is uploaded it will be pretty much public forever), then discuss it with your GP and write off to the Department of Health [*]. The Guardian gives some suitable text, or you could use the opt-out letter that FIPR developed last year (PDF or Word versions available).
[*] See Ross’s comment on this article first!