This is a victory for people power.
You remember your Tory government’s plan to give away your personal – private – health records to marauding health companies so they can profit from them?
The plan that keeps surfacing every few years and keeps getting batted back by a UK public that wants this material to stay confidential?
Well, we’ve just succeeded in stopping it again. For the time being, at least.
The current attempt started in May, when NHS Digital announced that, if you lived in England, it would be putting the private details of your mental and sexual health, criminal records, smoking and drinking habits onto disc and handing them to “third parties”. Almost nobody noticed.
The plan provided an opportunity for patients to opt out – if they did so by a deadline of June 23, which was ridiculously fast. It seems clear that the intention was to pass your information over before you even knew it was happening.
And then organisations like This Site became involved.
I published my first article about this on June 2.
The result was uproar.
Now we see that, after 107,429 people opted out in May, when nobody knew about it, 1,275,153 did so in June – around 12 times as many people.
Questions were asked in the House of Commons and the opt-out deadline was extended to September – and now the scheme is being withdrawn altogether, albeit temporarily, according to NHS Digital.
May we conclude that even more millions of people opted out during July and the first weeks of August?
But NHS Digital is not abandoning the scheme altogether – just pausing it, with no new launch date. Here’s The Observer:
It will soon start a “listening exercise” and consultation process before launching a public information campaign.
Who will be told about it?
In a major concession to critics, patients will now be allowed to opt out at any stage, with their data deleted even if it has already been uploaded.
Am I the only one with doubts about that? If it has already been provided to private firms, there’s nothing to stop them from taking that information off the database and keeping it in a form of their own. If they know it may be altered, they probably will.
NHS Digital is also pledging to increase the security and privacy of the data, even while researchers are working with it.
I do not believe this.
There is a fundamental dishonesty that goes to the heart of this scheme, and it is the lie that private firms care about your health more than their profits.
Private firms were allowed to run NHS services for profit soon after the David Cameron coalition government came into office, in a change supported by many Tory MPs who had shares in those firms.
The plan to give your confidential information to those private firms was first tried very soon after that, in 2013. To me, this was evidence that the Tory plan all along had been to make money for profit-grubbers and not to improve healthcare.
The public has batted it away time and time again since then, but time and time again the Tories have brought it back.
Their latest claim is that
“Patient data is vital to healthcare planning and research. It is being used to develop treatments for cancer, diabetes, long Covid and heart disease, and to plan how NHS services recover from Covid.”
That’s why they want to take away our right to privacy and confidentiality and I don’t believe a word of it. How can it be used to develop these treatments when we haven’t handed it over? And how have these treatments been developed in the past?
The simple fact is that it is our information – not theirs. And if we don’t want it to be shared, there’s nothing they can do about it.