Database state – latest!

Today sees the publication of a report by Professor Trisha Greenhalgh into the Summary Care Record (SCR). There is a summary of the report in the BMJ, which also has two discussion pieces: one by Sir Mark Walport of the Wellcome Trust arguing that the future of medical records is digital, and one by me which agrees but argues that as the SCR is unsafe and unlawful, it should be abandoned.

Two weeks ago I reported here how the coalition government planned to retain the SCR, despite pre-election promises from both its constituent parties to do away with it. These promises followed our Database State report last year which demonstrated that many of the central systems built by the previous government contravened human-rights law. The government’s U-turn provoked considerable anger among doctors. NGOs and backbench MPs, prompting health minister Simon Burns to promise a review.

Professor Greenhalgh’s review, which was in fact completed before the election, finds that the SCR fails to do what it was supposed to. It isn’t used much; it doesn’t fit in with how doctors and nurses actually work; it doesn’t make consultations shorter but longer; and the project was extremely badly managed. In fact, her report should be read by all serious students of software engineering; like the London Ambulance Service report almost twenty years ago, this document sets out in great detail what not to do.

For now, there is some press coverage in the Telegraph, the Mail, E-health Insider and Computerworld UK.

2 thoughts on “Database state – latest!

  1. Ross,

    My view on most of these “Grand Projects” that came out of the No10 think tank is “follow the money”.

    That is see who gets awarded the contracts and what they have done to help “Number 10” or the “Labour Party Funds”.

    The simple fact is that the Labour Party was and still is bankrupt, and as Tony Blair once notably said on television “We’ll take money from anyone” he didn’t say how.

    If you look at say Labour party conferances you will find lots of technology companies bidding for such work as electronic ID paying stupid money for floor space and wining and dining ministers at think tanks.

    And you only have to look at Patsy “Blew it” and her nice little earner to see what these systems are really all about.

    Patsy’s other “sponsors” are the health care industry that just wants to get it’s sticky hands on any and all medical data on people in the UK. And they don’t care if it is supposadly anonymous or not as they know that above a certain point it is impossible to keep the Data Subject ID hidden.

    Ask yourself a question ATOS is a private company that makes all sorts of data gathering systems (including fare payment / fine systems for the likes of SWT). It is also responsible for deciding who and who does not get money for being unable to work, as part of the process you have to give them full access to your medical records…

    What do you think they are going to do with all this data?

  2. Why on earth can’t we all keep our own medical records as happens in many other countries?
    USB memory sticks are now dirt cheap, and we could all hold our own records, encrypted and in digital form. When one went to the doctor, it could be plugged into a local computer and the doctor would access what he needed to give you treatment, and enter any new data as necessary. Hospitals could do the same. With careful design I’m sure a system could be devised where patients could look at their own data but not alter it, whilst doctors could enter new data, but not take copies without consent. Problems of lost records could be overcome with some form of encrypted storage from which the record could be recovered if necessary without those responsible for the storage being able to read it.

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