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Big Brother fears over new medical database for all

Letter published in Hampstead & Highgate Express 18 Mar:

Your headline article “Big Brother fears over new medical database for all” warns us about the Dept of Health helping itself to our confidential medical records, “presuming” that we consent, and reluctant to hear about it if we don’t.

A few of us have life-threatening medical conditions and will gratefully sacrifice some privacy for more informed treatment in A&E. For the rest of us, this is yet another demand to put private information in official hands we should by now know not to trust.

A misleading DoH leaflet ‘Changes to your health records’ assures us “anyone who has access to your records… must be directly involved in caring for you”. This is just untrue. The Department’s own documents show that government officials and many others will have access “in the public interest”, “by statute” or by court order. Those who have been paying attention will recall that the notorious Clause 152 which nearly made it into last year’s Coroners & Justice Act would have empowered Whitehall to share any information with anyone, anywhere, in or out the country for any reason it saw fit. Your readers have heard how Helen Marcus’ found the DVLA selling her registration record. Whitehall trafficks in data, and doesn’t think it needs to account to anyone for what it does.

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Most us should now instruct our GPs that the DoH does not have our consent. Without such instruction, our GPs are obliged to pass on our medical records. The unhelpful and misleading circular from the DHS provides no form for opting out. But the NO2ID campaign has provided one at http://www.no2id.net/downloads/SCR_optout_sheet.pdf and so too has the NHS Confidentiality Campaign at http://www.nhsconfidentiality.org/. (You might print a copy for readers who have no Web access.)

Managing whom we trust and with what information is just part of life. We have to consider who will respect our confidences, and how they will understand and use what we tell them. The notoriously leaky database state insists on as much trust for hundreds of thousands of officials as for our family and closest friends. People in our lives have to earn our trust. Whitehall just declares itself trustworthy, in the face of all evidence. Your readers will know what to do.

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