The end of patient confidentiality as NHS information is sold to insurers

Americanised healthcare: It is appropriate that the only appropriate image I could find features dollars instead of pounds - because it is clear that the Tory government is changing the NHS into an Americanised insurance-based service.

Americanised healthcare: It is appropriate that the only appropriate image I could find features dollars instead of pounds – because it is clear that the Tory government is changing the NHS into an Americanised insurance-based service.

Confidential information on NHS patients has been sold to insurance companies who used it in combination with information from credit rating agencies to identify customers and “refine” their premiums – increasing the costs of policies for thousands of customers, despite all the Tory-led government’s assurances to the contrary.

According to the Daily Telegraph, “a major UK insurance company… was able to obtain 13 years of hospital data – covering 47 million patients.

“As a result they recommended an increase in the costs of policies for thousands of customers last year.”

The revelation comes only days after plans to sell the confidential medical information of every NHS patient in England were put on hold amid a public outcry.

The system, also called variously the General Patient Extraction Service (GPES) or the Health and Social Care Information Centre, was dreamed up as a money-spinning device by Jeremy Hunt’s Department of Health.

The aim is that, if you are an NHS patient in England, your GP will be forced to provide your confidential records, showing every medical condition you have ever had and providing intimate details of your current state of health, to a huge national database.

From there, your information may be sold on to private healthcare and pharmaceutical companies for “research”. The government has said the information would be “pseudonymised”, in an attempt to reassure you that you cannot be identified from the information to be provided to outside organisations.

Only last Friday the BBC was reporting that critics of the scheme were “scaremongering”.

The Corporation – which has failed to report the new development – quoted Tory MP George Freeman, founder of Patients4Data, which represents charities and drug companies (and not patients, apparently) as follows: “We cannot let opponents peddling scaremongering myths stop patients benefiting from this quiet revolution of modern medicine.”

And last month, NHS England categorically stated: “No data will be made available for the purposes of selling or administering any kind of insurance.”

Vox Political has made it clear from the outset that this is not true, and in fact it will be entirely possible to trace your medical information back to you. Now we have proof.

NHS England has delayed compiling the new database of English NHS patients until the autumn. You could help sink the scheme altogether, if you don’t want your government – and your NHS – to sell your information into the wrong hands. Just opt out of the data sharing scheme, using a form designed by the medConfidential website.

Make no mistake – the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats in Parliament have betrayed you.

They have already sold hospital patients’ information to insurance companies, and there can be no doubt that the intention is to do the same with GPs’ confidential records, with a consequential increase in insurance costs to people across the country.

They are turning your beloved National Health Service into an insurance-based scheme, on the same lines as the vastly more expensive American system.

They have been lying to you.

They intend to profit from selling your information – to companies that intend to profit by using it against you.

Are you going to sit there and let them?

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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32 thoughts on “The end of patient confidentiality as NHS information is sold to insurers

  1. PublicAnimal9

    Hi Mike, Thanks for keeping us informed.

    Sent my refusal to consent for my medical records to be sold, to my GP, now to discover that the hospitals have sold our hospital records. I strenuously object to this. Can you suggest what I should do about please?

    1. Mike Sivier

      Tricky. How about writing to your MP, to Jeremy Hunt, to the head of NHS England (Sir David Nicholson), and to the newspapers, saying how glad you were to have the opportunity to keep your GP medical records out of the wrong hands and asking when you were offered the opportunity to do the same with your hospital records, as you do not want them to be used by insurance companies, as described in the Telegraph report, and suggesting that any such sale is a breach of your Data Protection rights. I’ve just had a look at the relevant Act of Parliament and that seems to be the case.

    1. Mike Sivier

      I’ve just replied to PublicAnimal9 after an inquiry on similar lines. A joint legal challenge – with others – might be another way forward. See who else will go for it and maybe approach someone like Public Interest Lawyers?

  2. Mike Sivier

    This is interesting. In the voting section at the top of the article, some cheeky so-and-so has given it just one star (meaning they think it is very poor). I’m curious to know why but no comment has been provided. All the factual evidence is present and correct and there can be no arguing with my account of what has happened and what it means – or so it seems to me. So why has this person voted it down?

    I’d like to read their reasoned argument against what I have written here.

  3. PublicAnimal9

    Sorry it might have been me, by mistake. I clicked on a star at the top, but didn’t get an option to rate the article 1-5, (perhaps because I’ve got javascript turned off).

    1. Mike Sivier

      That’s a relief – partially. There should be five stars visible; if you click on the one at the far right, you give the article a five-star (‘excellent’) rating. Click on the one at the far left and it is rated ‘very poor’. If you’re only seeing one star, something has gone seriously amiss!

      I’m glad I’m not the victim of a mystery detractor, though!

      1. joanna

        Hi mike I also did it by accident once. It is easier to zoom articles on the computer screen by turning off java script, you tend to get the page in a more purist form. Don’t worry Mike you are a friend to everyone’s here!! Also having java script turned off does not allow for leaving comments either.

      2. AM-FM

        Always wondered what those stars were, thought they were votes from facebook or something!
        As for the data selling, that’s all the Condems do – sell anything and everything that doesn’t even belong to them.

  4. PublicAnimal9

    I don’t see the five stars, only oneI will avoid the star from now on. I think it’s likely to be because of NoScripts or Don’t Track Me programmes running on this PC.
    Every one of the blogs I’ve read by you has been excellent. I rely on the likes of you and Jayne Linney to keep me informed. Thanks for doing so. I don’t read MSM or watch news on TV.

    1. Mike Sivier

      Jayne’s very good, and there are a few others too – Beastrabban’s weblog, which is by my brother David, Pride’s Purge, Another Angry Voice, The Void, Diary of a Benefits Scrounger, The Green Benches.

      … And many more!

  5. Thomas M

    Not only are they destroying the NHS, which is bad enough, but they are also making private healthcare too expensive for most disabled people. What next, selling our medical records to employers just to make sure that we are totally unemployable? They are already rich but want to ruin our lives just to get a bit richer.

  6. beastrabban

    Reblogged this on Beastrabban’s Weblog and commented:
    I am not remotely surprised that the government has sold people’s confidential medical records to insurance companies. Something like this has been coming for a very long time. Back in the 1990s I bought a book criticising some of the pseudoscience flying about then about the genetic nature of disease. There tends to be a simplistic attitudes to congenital disease or inherited disorders, that sees them as always the product of someone’s genetic heritage, while upbringing and environment can also cause a role. The book was also very concerned about genetic testing, because of the immense potential of this to be abused by insurance companies, wishing to select the safest customers and raise premiums for those, who aren’t genetically fit as the rest of us.

  7. bob archer.

    Hi mike, 5 stars from me. Excellent as usual. Im a 70 yr old man,with not a lot of money,but ill chip in what i can for public interest lawyers to have a go at that lying piece of tory scum, j. unt. its left me wondering how much lower this mob can go.There is absolutely nothing left that you would trust this lot with. The rest of the world used to look up to the mother of all parliaments,but these excuses for human beings are dragging this country back to the stone age. God how i hate them all.

  8. amnesiaclinic

    Thanks Mike for the info and advice. Will do as you suggest. I opted out of GP records but didn’t think of hospital records. I don’t think it will affect me but I am so incensed that I would be very happy to join with crowd-funding for a class action.
    We really need to come together and take them on in every way we can – and win!
    No, OUR information is NOT for sale!

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  11. richardbroomhall

    I went to see my GP approx. a month/6 weeks ago on for a medical problem, and had my brain working for once (pre dementia). I asked him/her if this selling of records was on the cards, as you had blogged about previously. I was assured it wasn’t, and went away happy, having no reason to doubt the GP in question as that particular doctor is not someone I thought would ever agree to such a policy. And, still don’t. So, the question is, “Who did agree”?

    1. Mike Sivier

      Interesting. Has the Telegraph issued an apology? If not, then there’s probably still a rat to be smelt there.

      In the meantime, Hospital Episode Statistics have been found, uploaded to Google’s data program BigQuery and publicly available in a mapping tool called Earthware.

      There is nothing to stop anyone with the required extra data sets from using them to work out the identities of anybody listed in those statistics, so the claim that patient confidentiality has been breached remains sound.

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