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NHS Digital plans September go-live for citizen identity service

Health and social care patients will have a single online identity verification log-in to use across health and care by autumn 2017

NHS Digital aims to deploy a single identity verification service for use in health and social care by the end of September 2017.

The plans are part of the organisation’s Personalised health and care 2020 deliverables, and forms part of the patient engagement stream, focusing on giving patients control of their own health and “reducing pressures on frontline services”.  

The citizen identity programme aims to provide “a single, secure identity for each member of the public, across all health and care services,” according to NHS Digital’s latest board papers

According to the papers, NHS Digital “will agree a system for Citizen Identify and go live for selected Personalised health and care 2020 programmes” by the end of September.

The aim is to create an identity authentication scheme which “links social identities to an NHS identity so the right information can be confidently shared”.

In 2016, Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) began to trial Gov.uk Verify, the identity assurance service created by the Government Digital Service (GDS). However, it is still not certain that the NHS will adopt the service, and it is still exploring different options.  

In an interview with Computer Weekly last year, NHS Digital’s chief operating officer Rob Shaw said the NHS was likely to end up with “a hybrid of different things” to make sure that the service is secure enough due to the sensitivity surrounding health data.  

Since then, GDS has worked with the NHS to better understand the needs of health and social care, however no decision has been made on whether or not to adopt the service for the NHS.

Last year, the NHS began work to link Verify with the NHS Digital’s personal demographic service, which holds the master patient index of NHS numbers as well as other details.

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GDS aims to have 25 million UK citizens registered on its Gov.uk Verify identity assurance system by 2020. 

However, this would require not only the NHS to take up the service, but also getting large departments on board, such as HM Revenue and Customs’ (HMRC’s) self-assessment and digital tax services and the universal credit welfare system run by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Both departments have reportedly been reluctant to adopt the service, with HMRC developing its own identity verification service based on the existing Government Gateway, and DWP initially reluctant to adopt Verify – although it is now using it in its new, digital version of universal credit.

The government has also begun to run several pilots with local councils and private sector services to establish their needs for the service. 

In a recent National Audit Office (NAO) report, the NAO criticised the Verify programme for having “lost focus on the longer-term strategic case for the programme” and not achieving the predicted number of users.

“Reduced take-up means that Verify will need to be centrally funded for longer, and reduces the incentive for the identity providers to lower their prices over time,” the NAO said. “It is not clear how or when GDS will determine whether continuing with Verify will achieve projected benefits.” 

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Possible minor typo in the date provided in the following sentence,

"NHS Digital aims to deploy a single identity verification service for use in health and social care by the end of September 2016."

You win the prize! (ahem...) Whoops - well spotted, and thanks for letting us know.
It is worrying that different government departments, including the NHS and Local Authorities are not thinking in a joined up fashion on this. The taxpayer ultimately pays a premium for such siloed thinking, we need all agencies to consider the citizen first, and how we make it easier for the data subject (or their legitimate representative/carer) to access the data securely.
Clearly only a voluntry system as it cannot be made legal under UK law. Parliment has voted against identiy cards and spying on the citizens activities and selling health data is the next step. Clearly there are 11 million patients not on the internet some 600000 excluded from such systems because they are blind or visually impaired. One of the key features is to catch health tourists and fraudsters from using public services and snoop on citizens where the government has lost control of immergration. one of the key areas of failure is a track record of failure to keep data safe and the pointless high costs of IT companies wishing to cash in on excalating storage costs. Analysts point out this money is better spent on frontline services not on the gravy train of government contractors who in this case add more value to the political parties than delivery of efficent services.

Another bad project yet again.

This excludes those who are mentally impaired by conditions such as dementia.

I also had problems with the Government verify scheme, which could not verify my passport or driving licence, even though they were issued by Government departments, because they were DIFFERENT government departments!

It is yet another example of a project being customer unfriendly, disjointed and improperly funded to resolve a local issue such as Health tourism.

It was not so long ago that Banks were insisting on a person opening a bank account had to have a Passport or Driving licence as accepted identification. My daughter had neither at 18, and so could not open a bank account for a company to pay her wages!