Saturday, December 16, 2006

Big Brother Opt-Out?

Two-time winner

We've always attacked the £50bn NHS Supercomputer on cost grounds. Plus we doubted it would ever deliver what was claimed- which is why the accumulating stories of mysterious crashes and dangerous malfunctions on the bits already in use are no surprise whatsoever.

But others have focused their concern principally on the project's confidentiality aspects. Right from the start, the Doc warned me next time I got stopped by the traffic cops they'd ask me how my penile dysfunction was coming along. And the project has already won two of the coveted Big Brother Awards (pic).

Before Monday, I was less concerned, but the scales have now fallen from my eyes.

So today's Grauniad report is very interesting:

"Following a Guardian campaign against the compulsory uploading of personal details to the system known as The Spine, Lord Warner, the health minister, will announce a plan that would allow individuals to review and correct their records and withhold them from the database.

...GPs would ask every patient to give their explicit consent for a summary of their record to be put on the national database. They would be given a few weeks to review the summary and call for corrections or amendments to be made before they consented to the upload.

In a key departure from the previous position, the DoH taskforce said: "Some patients may ask for their summary care record not to be shared or uploaded at all."

Lord Warner said it was not yet possible to guarantee a right of veto.... But he conceded it was technically possible for patients to refuse to let their data be uploaded and the government was considering how to make this happen."

So on the one hand, there's no guarantee... as yet... but on the other hand, they are considering how to make an existing technical possibility... er, happen.

Clear? As always, they're making it up as they go along. And of course, Warner has previous form on blurting out stuff that subsequently has to be "clarified" (see here and here).

But we do know there's panic at the top about the Supercomputer- so much so, right now they're running round reaffirming their "complete support" for the whole lunacy.

But... er... if we're all to be allowed an opt-out, how is the system actually going to work? Unless GPs continue to maintain separate records for opted-out patients, then they will have no records at all. But duplicate systems not only give rise to obvious confusions, they also cost a fortune. An even bigger fortune.

So... er... umm...


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