I am very conflicted about the NHS spine. This is (will be) the computer system whereby all patient records are stored in a single system and available to any appropriate NHS worker in the UK.
As a cynical IT professional, I laugh in the face of quotes like this:
The NHS Care Records Service uses the strongest national and international security measures available for storing and handling your information.
Ha ha! I chortle. Tee hee.
I am sure they do use the strongest etc, etc. But let’s face it, it’s going to leak like a sieve. Health service staff are not particularly IT savvy. There’s professionalism and an awareness of patient confidentiality on the one hand, and there’s keeping your notes on a USB stick and having your handbag nicked on the other. There’s IT policy mentioned in your induction day, and there’s using someone else’s log on because yours isn’t yet activated and the patient’s going to die (or the Daily Mail will dance with glee) if you make the wrong decision in the next 3 minutes.
But a far greater worry is the scope creep that surrounds any government technology. Of course they shouldn’t use our medical records to vet public sector job applications. Of course they shouldn’t create an MRB check like a CRB check to ensure that people with – I dunno – chronic mental illness don’t get jobs as clowns (all that working with children and animals…) Of course they shouldn’t let the anti-terrorist bunch trawl through to find whatever it is they look for these days. Of course they shouldn’t. And of course they will.
So Ha ha! I say again.
A lack of joined-up medical record-keeping kills. I don’t have the stats, I don’t even know what audited stats exist, but hospital medics of my acquaintance assure me that a lack of vital and timely medical histories is a killer. And you only have to talk to anyone with a chronic condition to glimpse the exhausting grimness of having to explain their history to whoever it is they’ve landed in front of this time.
So… do I allow this privileged position to ease me out of the data danger zone? I am relatively healthy and check No, No, No, No on life insurance forms. Not being on the database won’t kill me. If I turn up in A&E what they see is what they have to deal with because there’s nothing nasty in my medical history. And I am very well aware of how hard security is to achieve (I’m an IT worker in the financial sector). And I am old enough and cynical enough to know that if great big databases are there, they will be used by self-serving governments. Do I opt out at no risk to myself because Big Data is Evil and Should Not Be Encouraged?
Or should I support the health service’s laudable attempt to save lives not to mention reducing wear and tear on the patients’ patience, even though that will only encourage Big Government? It’s a nice gesture, and with my nice clean bill of health when the CID looking for a sex killer search through the database for local nutters prescribed nonutterherein there is minimal risk to precious me.
What would Pastor Neimueller do?
What would he wish he had done?
I find this a tough ethical call.