GP’s and privacy campaigners are rallying to block a Department of Health and Social Care plan to give the private sector (and other researchers) access to the medical histories of over 55 million patients. Unless you opt-out before 23rd June 2021, the UK government will automatically get access to your entire medical records, from your GP’s surgery and they will also assume they have your consent to access your children’s records as well (if you have children).
In May last year, Spotlight reported how technology firms, including a right wing US data firm called Palantir, owned by rightwing billionaire Peter Thiel had been given access to “large volumes of confidential UK patient information in a data-mining operation that is part of the government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak”. The Guardian reported at the time that they’d seen documents that suggested that these companies would be given access to “large volumes of data pertaining to individuals, including protected health information, Covid-19 test results, the contents of people’s calls to the NHS health advice line 111 and clinical information about those in intensive care” and that they would then be able to cross reference your details on a master patient index with an existing NHS resource that uses “social marketing data” and includes “phone location data”. Part of the project involves integrating NHS datasets with the Palantir’s data-management platform. The same datastore being used for Microsoft, Google and Amazon products.
Speaking to ‘The People’s Covid Inquiry’ recently, Lawyer and co-founder of Foxglove campaign, Rosa Curling, reported that “emergency arrangements with the Covid-19 datastore are now being pushed through.. in a very very quiet way.. as something that should happen on a more permanent basis.. without our consent” She explains that Matt Hancock has “issued a direction.. that GP & social care data should be transferred to NHS digital”. Curling also points out that the government had previously attempted to seek patient consent to access patient data (prior to 2014) and failed, but that’s not the approach this time and, in fact now, unless you go through the process of opting-out, the government will assume you’ve consented to them accessing your records. There’s also no detail from the government on how that information will then be used or who else might be given access to it.
OpenDemocracy didn’t beat about the bush in their recent article either when they explained that patients living in England could have information about their physical, mental and sexual health ‘sold’ to third parties. They go on to explain that your data will be “disseminated” for payment to third parties, including commercial organisations outside the NHS. There has been no formal press release to explain government plans and certainly nothing to inform patients of their right to opt-out by the 23rd June deadline.
On the 1st June, the Guardian reported that some GPs are actually refusing to hand over patient data to NHS digital and are trying to encourage colleagues to also take a stand. They’re hoping this move will at least help them buy more time in order to raise awareness and inform their patients. On the 4th June, the Guardian also reported that “privacy campaigners, concerned doctors and David Davis MP are mounting a rearguard action, with legal threats sent to the government today”.
So, here’s what you have to do to opt-out folks….
1) Inform NHS digital that you wish to opt-out. Click here to inform NHS Digital you do not give them access to your private data.
2) Register your Type 1 Opt-out preference with your GP. Click here to download a ‘Type 1 Opt-out preference form’. You will then need to complete this form and send it to your GP.
Please remember, you only have until 23rd June 2021 to opt-out. Also please help raise awareness – tell your family, friends, work colleagues, mums and dads on school run and anyone else you can think of.
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