Are our medical records being sold off to profit-hungry corporations?

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For years, we have all enjoyed the fact that we could trust that our medical details will be treated as confidential by clinicians.  But now as our NHS is being converted into a system that exists more to help generate profit for private corporations than to provide a public service – should we start to be concerned about our personal data?

The private sector has become entrenched into our healthcare system and not just in terms of the private corporations who deliver healthcare.  The big money exists for the corporations who look at management, strategies, information technology and financial planning.  Then there are the corporations who are responsible for running the entire health and social care provision for any one area as Integrated Care Providers.  Numerous people have made claims that these organisations’ strategies will often turn out to be designed to keep their profits flowing.  It’s all a long way off from the public service that offered efficient and equitable healthcare that was free at the point of need to us all.

Maximising profits for the big corporations is being prioritised over giving us the best healthcare services possible. So as our needs are being sacrificed to fuel profit how can we be sure that our right to confidentiality of our personal medical records is not also being sacrificed?  Personal data is a profit source.  If the big corporations can get hold of that data they can use it to maximise their profits.

I initially started thinking about this when I heard about GPs being asked to sign up to Primary Care Networks (PCN).   Even if a GP had refused to sign up to the PCN their patient list would still be handed over to the PCN.  I felt very angry about the prospect of PCNs being set up for many reasons, but I didn’t like to think they would have access to my medical notes held at my GP surgery.

Some time ago I had, like many others, filled in a form at my GP surgery to request that my personal records are not shared with anyone beyond those involved in my personal care. Although a different type of opt-out of data sharing now exists patients are still entitled to request that their data is not used for anything other than their own care.  But, as our NHS has been transformed into a huge and complex structure involving many private corporations on every level, as well as the state, it would be easy to excuse all data sharing as being relevant to a person’s care.

It is law that all health and social care organisations must share information with each other about patients they are caring for.  When information about you is shared they will identify you by using your NHS number.  You can read more about data sharing within the NHS by following this link.

Personally I feel I have little confidence that my personal medical records will not be used or shared with anyone other than for the purposes of my own care.  But the Information Commissioner’s Office has picked up on this case where personal data on mothers and new babies was sold to third parties.  We can feel reassured that the ICO picked this up or feel concerned that it even happened.  Either way we need to acknowledge that the motivation for the misuse of personal medical records is inherent in our NHS.

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