Daily Mail GP attacks NPfIT and calls for smartcard records

One of the Daily Mail’s “Ask the Doctor” GPs, Martin Scurr, has advised his readers to say “no” to their health records being uploaded to a central database as part of the NHS’s National Programme for IT [NPfIT].

After giving advice to the Mail’s readers on constipation and nose bleeds, he writes about the NPfIT: “We simply can’t trust the security. If anyone asks you to have your records computerised for availability everywhere, say no.”

His comments will be seen as unhelpful by those doctors who support the main aim of the NPfIT – an electronic health record that’s available wherever and whenever it’s needed. And his remarks are a sign that some doctors are a long way from giving their full support to the NPfIT more than six years since the programme was announced. 

Dr Scurr writes:

“By the way… Confidentiality of medical records has been prized as a cornerstone of medical ethics.

“This was placed in peril by Tony Blair in 2002 when he computerised the nation’s medical records. And so the NPfIT (the National Programme for Information Technology) was born …I have not met a single colleague happy at the prospect of their medical notes being available on this system – every week we hear about blunders involving loss of personal data.

“Furthermore, while it might seem sensible for our medical records to be accessible from any terminal at any general practice or hospital in the country, what is the price? It will only be a matter of time before that data is abused.

“Far better would have been to issue each of us with a smart card containing our medical records – to be presented at your GP, hospital or pharmacy – thus underlining the philosophy of personal responsibility for health.

“A similar version of medical notes travelling with the patient has existed for years – the Red Book, which records the health care and immunisation records of children – and very good it is, too.

“Why do we have to have the proposed internet-access nightmare? The problem is that the consultation process was brief and incomplete. There were too many noses in the trough. Billions have already been paid to the subcontractors.

“None of the administration has proved themselves to be competent – after several years we do not have a working system. NHS trusts have deferred plans to go live as the trials have been calamitous.

“But more importantly, we simply can’t trust the security. If anyone asks you to have your records computerised for availability everywhere, say no. They will either be lost or worse. Governments are not to be trusted with personal data.”

Links:

Patients can carry records on secure smartcards – E-Health Insider, Feb 2007

Time for an NHS smartcard? – BMJ

Blair’s rushed NPfIT plans – IT Projects blog, Feb 2008  

Dr Scurr’s column – Daily Mail, November, 2008   

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Although I am against the national database (Scdotland already has one) I have to say I am suprised that Dr Scurr does not choke on his own words. Medical confidentality has been eroded by doctors/nurses for years and the amount of information that would be available to doctors/nurses outside the practice would be tiny compared to what the staff within the practice are allowed access to. Having been involved in medical privacy issues for sometime, I have lost count of the amount of times I have heard such 2 faced doctors.

Unless Dr Scurr is one of the rare doctors who keep information in confidence I suggest he looks at his own standrds before complaining about someone elses.

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