A data sharing project called “care.data” was a scheme that allowed GP and hospital data to be stored and shared within the NHS, and possibly with third parties as well. It was supposed to launch in 2014 but has been heavily delayed due to privacy concerns.
Now, the project is being terminated all together, thanks to the Department of Health in England.
So, with all the NHS breaches and leaks – with medical breaches still being far ahead of the tables in terms of breaches by sector – is this a good thing? Have we just dodged a huge data breach bullet?
NHS data sharing scheme terminated
A pilot plan was introduced involving six clinical commission groups in four areas of England to help combat any privacy concerns people may have. Ultimately, the Department of Health made the decision that the programme will instead be terminated based on the publication of two reviews on data security by Dame Fiona and the Care Quality Commission on English healthcare.
The reviews are both recommendations on safeguarding patient data and dealing with NHS data; the results of which have been important in the decision to terminate the project.
The reviews recommended replacing any out dated IT systems and having an opt-out system for patients. This is so patients can decide themselves whether they are prepared for their data to be shared – especially given how confidential and personal our medical data usually is.
In response to the reports:
“In light of Dame Fiona’s recommendations, NHS England has taken the decision to close the care.data programme…
However, the government and the health and care system remain absolutely committed to realising the benefits of sharing information, as an essential part of improving outcomes for patients.”
The closure has been welcomed by many pressure groups for medical confidentiality, as well as various privacy groups and others concerned with the growing trends of data sharing.
Coordinator of medConfidential Phil Booth said:
“One toxic brand may have ended, but government policy continues to be the widest sharing of every patient’s most private data.”
The NHS and data breaches
The NHS has the most data breaches than any other organisation here in the UK. In December, a Freedom of Information request was made which revealed that almost two thirds of NHS trusts would access patient information and other information from their personal smart devices. This problem will only increase as the NHS look to incorporate smart devices and the use of applications to allow employees access to shared content in 2018 in order to turn the NHS paperless.
Whilst we recognise the benefits in using technology to enhance services and improve efficiency, the most important considerations must always be to ensure that data being handled about patients remains safe. Until this can be achieved, any new technological methods utilised by the NHS will be closely scrutinised and met with rousing concern.
Such concerns are entirely justified – as stated above, the NHS are leading the table of data breaches and leaks.
A study that was published in the BMC Medicine journal found that a number of device-based health apps don’t properly secure customer data and have poor privacy standards – even though many of the apps were certified as clinically safe and trustworthy by the UK NHS Health Apps Library.
IMPORTANT: advice on this page is intended to be up-to-date for the 'first published date'.
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