Category Archives: leaflet

Patient questions on – an open letter

Dear NHS England Patients & Information Directorate,

We’ve been very patient patients in the pause. Please can we have some answers now?

I would like to call for greater transparency and openness about the promises made to the public, project processes & policies and your communication plans.

In 2013, in the Health Service Journal Mr. Kelsey wrote:

“When patients are ignored, they are most at risk; that was the central conclusion of the report by Robert Francis into Stafford hospital.

Don Berwick, in his safety review, said the NHS should be “engaging, empowering and hearing patients and their carers all the time.

“That has been my mission since I started as National Director for Patients and Information: to support health and care services transform transparency and participation.

HSJ, 10th December 2013

It is time to walk-the-talk for under this banner of transparency, participation and open government.

Response to the Listening exercises

The listening phase, introduced by the pause announced on February 18th, has captured a mass of questions, the majority of which still remain unaddressed.

At one of these sessions, [the 1-hr session on June 17th Open House, linking ca. 100 people at each of the locations in Basingstoke, Leicester, London, and York] participants were promised that our feedback would be shared with us later in the summer, and posted online. After the NHS AGM on Sept 18th I was told it would happen ‘soon’. It is still not in the public domain.

At every meeting all the unanswered questions, on post-it notes, in table-group minutes or scribbled flipcharts, were gathered ‘to be answered at a later date’. When will that be?

To date, there has been no published information which addresses the unanswered event questions.

Transparency of Process, Policies and Approach

The Programme Board has held meetings to plan the rollout process, policies and approach. The minutes and materials from which have not been published. I find this astonishing when one considers that the minutes of the advisory group, NIB (new), CAG, GPES advisory or even NHS England Board itself are in the public domain. I believe the Programme Board meeting materials should be too.

It was acknowledged through the Partridge Review of past use of our hospital records that this HES data is not anonymous. The extent of its sale to commercial third-parties and use by police and the Home Office was revealed. This is our medical data we gave to hospitals and in our wider medical use for our care. Why are we the last to hear it’s being accessed by all sorts of people who are not at all involved in our clinical care?

Even for commissioning purposes it is unclear how these datasharing reasons are justified when the Caldicott Review said extracting identifiable data for risk stratification or commissioning could not be assumed under some sort of ‘consent deal’?

“The Review Panel found that commissioners do not need dispensation from confidentiality, human rights and data protection law…” [The Information Governance review, ch7]

The 251 approval just got extended *again* – until 30th April 2015. If you can’t legally extract data without repeat approvals from on high, then maybe it’s time to question why?

The DoH, NHS England Patients and Information Directorate, HSCIC, and indeed many data recipients, all appear to have normalised an approach that for many is still a shock. The state centralised and passed on our medical records to others without our knowledge or permission. For years. With financial exchange. 

Amazingly, it continues to be released in this way today, still without our consent or fair processing or publicised way to opt out.

“To earn the public’s trust in future we must be able to show that our controls are meticulous, fool-proof and solid as a rock.”  said Sir Nick Partridge in his summary review.

Now you ask us to trust in that the GP data, a degree more personal, will be used properly.

Yet you ask us to do this without significant changes in legislation to safeguard tightly defined purposes who can access it and why, how we control what future changes may be made without our knowledge and without a legally guaranteed opt out.

There is no information about what social care dataset is to be included in future, so how can we know what scope even is yet?

Transparency cannot be a convenient watch word which applies with caveats. Quid pro quo, you want our data under an assumed consent process, then guarantee a genuinely informed public.

You can’t tell patients one approach now, then plan to change what will be said after the pilot is complete, knowingly planning a wider scope to include musculoskeletal or social care data and more.  Or knowing you plan to broaden users of data [like research and health intelligence currently under discussion at IAG ] but only communicate a smaller version in the pilot. That is like cheating on a diet. You can’t say and do one thing in public, then have your cake and eat it later when no one is looking. It still counts.

In these processes, policies and approach, I don’t feel my trust can be won back with lack of openness and transparency. I don’t yet see a system which is, ‘meticulous, fool-proof or solid as a rock’.

‘Pathfinder’ pilots

Most recently you have announced that four areas of CCGs will pilot the ‘pathfinder’ stage in the rollout of phase one. But where and when remains a  mystery. Pathfinder communications methods may vary from place to place and trial what works and what fails. One commendable method will be a written letter.

However even given that individual notice intent, we cannot ignore that many remaining questions will be hard to address in a leaflet or letter. They certainly won’t fit into an SMS text.

Why pilot communications at all which will leave the same open questions unanswered you already know, but have not answered?

For example, let’s get a few of the missing processes clarified up front:

  • How will you communicate with Gillick competent children, whose records may contain information about which their parents are not aware?
  • How will you manage this for elderly or vulnerable patients in care homes and with diminished awareness or responsibility?
  • What of  the vulnerable at risk of domestic abuse and coercion?
  • When things change in scope or use, how will we be given the choice to change our opt out decision?

I ask you not to ignore the processes which remain open. They need addressed BEFORE the pilot, unless you want people to opt out on the basis of their uncertainty and confusion.

What you do now, will set the model expectations for future communications. Patient online. Personalised medicine. If NHS health and social care is to become all about the individual, will you address all individuals equally or is reaching some less important than others?

It seems there is time and effort in talking to other professionals about big data, but not to us, whose data it is. Dear Patients & Information Directorate, you need to be talking to us, before to others about how to use us.

In March, this twelve point plan made some sensible suggestions.

Many of them remain unaddressed. You could start there. But in addition it must be clear before getting into communications tools, what is it that the pathfinders are actually piloting?

You can’t pilot communications without clearly defined contents to talk about.

Questions of substance need answers, the ten below to start with.

What determines that patients understand the programme and are genuinely informed, and how will it be measured?

Is it assumed that pilots will proceed to extraction? Or will the fair processing efforts be evaluated first and the effort vs cost be taken into account whether it is worth proceeding at all?

Given the cost involved, and legal data protection requirements, surely the latter? But the pathfinder action plan conflates the two.

Citizen engagement

Let’s see this as an opportunity to get right, for us, the patients. After all, you and the rest of the NHS England Board were keen to tell us at the NHS AGM on September 18th, how valuable citizen engagement is, and to affirm that the NHS belongs to us all.

How valued is our engagement in reality, if it is ignored? How will involvement continue to be promoted in NHS Citizen and other platforms, if it is seen to be ineffective? How might this negatively affect future programmes and our willingness to get involved in clinical research if we don’t trust this basic programme today?

This is too important to get wrong. It confuses people and causes concern. It put trust and confidence in jeopardy. Not just for now, but for other future projects. risks polluting across data borders, even to beyond health:

“The story is a warning for us all. It is far better if the industry can be early on writing standards and protocols to protect privacy now rather than later on down the track,” he said. [David Willets, on 5G]

So please, don’t keep the feedback and this information to internal departments.

We are told it is vital to the future of our NHS. It’s our personal information.  And both belong to us.

During one Health Select Committee hearing, Mr. Kelsey claimed: “If 90 per cent opt out [of], we won’t have an NHS.”

The BMA ARM voted in June for an opt in model.

ICO has ruled that an opt in model by default at practice level with due procedures for patient notification will satisfy both legal requirements and protect GPs in their role as custodians of confidentiality and data controllers. Patient Concern has called for GPs to follow that local choice opt in model.

I want to understand why he feels what the risk is, to the NHS and examine its evidence base. It’s our NHS and if it is going to fail without and the Board let it come to this, then we must ask why. And we can together do something to fix it. There was a list of pre-conditions he stated at those meetings would be needed before any launch, which the public is yet to see met. Answering this question should be part of that.

It can’t afford to fail, but how do we measure at what cost?

I was one of many, including much more importantly the GPES Advisory Group, who flagged the shortcomings of the patient leaflet in October 2013, which failed to be a worthwhile communications process in January. I flagged it with comms teams, my MP, the DoH.

[Sept 2013 GPES Advisory] “The Group also had major concerns about the process for making most patients aware of the contents of the leaflets before data extraction for commenced”.

No one listened. No action was taken. It went ahead as planned. It cost public money, and more importantly, public trust.

In the words of Lord Darzi,

“With more adroit handling, this is a row that might have been avoided.”

Now there is still a chance to listen and to act. This programme can’t afford to pilot another mistake. I’m sure you know this, but it would appear that with the CCG announcement, the intent is to proceed to pilot soon.  Ready or not.

If the programme is so vital to the NHS future, then let’s stop and get it right. If it’s not going to get the participation levels needed, then is it worth the cost? What are the risks and benefits of pressing ahead or at what point do we call a halt? Would it be wise to focus first on improving the quality and correct procedures around the data you already have – before increasing the volume of data you think you need? Where is the added intelligence, in adding just more information?

Is there any due diligence, a cost benefit analysis for


Scrap the ‘soon’ timetable. But tell us how long you need.

The complete raw feedback from all these events should be made public, to ensure all the questions and concerns are debated and answers found BEFORE any pilot.

The programme board minutes papers and all the planning and due diligence should be published and open to scrutiny, as any other project spending public funds should be.

A public plan of how the pathfinders fit into the big picture and timeline of future changes and content would remove the lingering uncertainty of the public and GPs: what is going on and when will I be affected?

The NHS 5 year forward view was quite clear; our purse strings have been pulled tight. The NHS belongs to all of us. And so we should say,  can’t proceed at any and at all costs. It needs to be ‘meticulous, fool-proof and solid as a rock’.

We’ve been patient patients. We should now expect the respect and response, that deserves.

Thank you for your consideration.

Yours sincerely.


Addendum: Sample of ten significant questions still outstanding

1. Scope: What is Scope content is shifting. and requests for scope purposes are changing already, from commissioning only to now include research and health intelligence. How will we patients know what we sign up to today, stays the purposes to which data may be used tomorrow?

2. Scope changes fair processing: We cannot sign up to one thing today, and find it has become something else entirely tomorrow without our knowledge. How will we be notified of any changes in what is to be extracted or change in how what has been extracted is to be used in future – a change notification plan?

3. Purposes clarity: Who will use which parts of our medical data for what? a: Clinical care vs secondary uses:

Given the widespread confusion – demonstrated on radio and in press after the pathfinders’ announcement – between  which is for ‘secondary use’ only, i.e. purposes other than the direct care of the patient – and the Summary Care Record (SCR) for direct care in medical settings, how will uses be made very clear to patients and how it will affect our existing consent settings?

3. Purposes definition: Who will use which parts of our medical data for what?  b) Commercial use  It is claimed the Care Act will rule out “solely commercial”purposes, but how when what remains is a broad definition open to interpretation? Will “the promotion of health” still permit uses such as marketing? Will HSCIC give its own interpretation, it is after all, the fact it operates within the law which prescribes what it should promote and permit.

3. Purposes exclusion: Who will use which parts of our medical data for what?  c) Commercial re-use by third parties: When will the new contracts and agreements be in place? Drafts on the HSCIC website still appear to permit commercial re-use and make no mention of changes or revoking licenses for intermediaries.

4a. Opt out: It is said that patients who opt out will have this choice respected by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (i.e. no data will be extracted from their GP record) according to the Secretary of State for Health  [col 147] – but when will the opt out – currently no more than a spoken promise – be put on a statutory basis? There seem to be no plans whatsoever for this.

Further wider consents: how patients will know what they have opted into or out from is currently almost impossible. We have the Summary Care Record, Proactive care in some local areas, different clinical GP systems, the Electronic Prescription Service and soon to be Patient Online, all using different opt in methods of asking and maintaining data and consent, means patients are unsurprisingly confused.

4b. Opt out: At what point do you determine that levels of participation are worth the investment and of value? If parts of the population are not represented, how will it be taken into account and remain valuable to have some data? What will be statistically significant?

5. Legislation around security: The Care Act 2014 is supposed to bring in new legislation for our data protection. But there are no changes to date as far as I can see – what happened to the much discussed in Parliament, one strike and out. Is any change still planned? If so, how has this been finalised and with what wording, will it be open to Parliamentary scrutiny?  The Government claim to have added legal protection is meaningless until the new Care Act Regulations are put in front of Parliament and agreed.

6. What of the Governance changes discussed?

There was some additional governance and oversight promised, but to date no public communication of changes to the data management groups through the HRA CAG or DAAG and no sight of the patient involvement promised.

The Data Guardian role remains without the legal weight that the importance of its position should command. It has been said this will be granted ‘at the earliest opportunity.’ Many seem to have come and gone.

7. Data security: The planned secure data facility (‘safe setting’) at HSCIC to hold linked GP and hospital data is not yet built for expanded volume of data and users expected according to Ciaran Devane at the 6th September event. When will it be ready for the scale of

Systems and processes on this scale need security designed, that scales up to match in size with the data and its use.

Will you proceed with a pilot which uses a different facility and procedures from the future plan? Or worse still, with extracting data into a setting you know is less secure than it should be?

8. Future content sharing: Where will NHS patients’ individual-level data go in the longer term? The current documentation says ‘in wave 1’ or phase one, which would indicate a future change is left open, and indicated identifiable ‘red’ data is to be shared in future?  “ will provide the longer term visions as well as […] the replacement for SUS.

9.  Current communications:

    • How will GPs and patients in ‘pathfinder’ practices be contacted?
    • Will every patient be written to directly with a consent form?
    • What will patients who opted out earlier this year be told if things have changed since then?
    • How will NHS England contact those who have retired or moved abroad recently or temporarily, still with active GP records?
    • How will foreign pupils’ parents be informed abroad and rights respected?
    • How does opt out work for sealed envelopes?
    • All the minorities with language needs or accessibility needs – how will you cater for foreign language, dialect or disability?
    • The homeless, the nomadic,  children-in-care
    • How can we separate these uses clearly from clinical care in the public’s mind to achieve a genuinely informed opinion?
    • How will genuine mistakes in records be deleted – wrong data on wrong record, especially if we only get Patient Online access second and then spot mistakes?
    • How long will data be retained for so that it is relevant and not excessive – Data Protection principle 3?
    • How will the communications cater for both GP records and HES plus other data collection and sharing?
    • If the plan is to have opt out effective for all secondary uses, communications must cater for new babies to give parents an informed choice from Day One. How and when will this begin?

No wonder you wanted first no opt out, then an assumed consent via opt out junk mail leaflet. This is hard stuff to do well. Harder still, how will you measure effectiveness of what you may have missed?

10. Pathfinder fixes: Since NHS England doesn’t know what will be effective communications tools, what principles will be followed to correct any failures in communications for any particular trial run and how will that be measured?

How will patients be asked if they heard about it and how will any survey, or follow up ensure the right segmentation does not miss measuring the hard to reach groups – precisely those who may have been missed?  i.e. If you only inform 10% of the population, then ask that same 10% if they heard of, you would expect a close to 100% yes. That’s not reflective that the whole population was well informed about the programme.

If it is shown to have been ineffective, at what point do you say Fair Processing failed and you cannot legally proceed to extraction?

> This list doesn’t yet touch on the hundreds of questions generated from public events, on post-its and minutes. But it would be a start.


References for remaining questions:

17th June Open House: Q&A

17th June Open House: Unanswered public Questions

Twelve point plan [March 2014] positive suggestions by Jeremy Taylor, National Voices

6th September meeting in London

image quote: Winnie The Pooh, A.A. Milne – Getting the ducks in a row

Good Friday has different meanings and traditions across the cultures. For some the most sombre day of their church calendar. For others, another Bank Holiday and start of the long weekend in spring. For Mr.Cameron this year, getting stung by a jelly fish abroad.

For me, visiting family in a small nordic village, it’s the day of the annual duck race fundraiser.

2,000 numbered plastic ducks are thrown into fast moving water high upstream, and the public waits and watches anxiously as the toys approach the central village bridge and race beyond. The first to hit the finish line net at the weir after an arduous course, is the winner.

There are lots of obstacles along the route and some ducks get stuck. Children are allowed to pick up those off-track in side eddies and hurl them back into the main channel. As a parent, you inevitably lose your child at some point in the crowd, fret they may have joined the ducks for a swim, and the whole race always takes longer than we expect.

So, it feels, as a citizen and patient, is the current progress of

There was a misjudged start. There’s lots of obstacles still to overcome. It looks like the finish line is getting clearer. And some believe it might take longer than first thought.

Whilst on holiday I’ve taken time to read over the recent letter, to colleagues, from Tim Kelsey & NHS England. It’s addressed to colleagues, which I’m not, so perhaps it feels a little like looking over someone’s shoulder on the train, but hey, It’s the only update we’ve got.

Looks like some positive acknowledgements and steps are in progress:

  • We will work with stakeholders to produce support materials, such as an optional template letter for patients and ways of making opting-out more straightforward
  • We need to do more to ensure that patients and the public have a clear understanding of the programme
  • This work is continuing and we will update you on these changes separately 
  • We want to hear your views and suggestions so we can take action to improve and build confidence in the programme. We will also be engaging with patient groups, GPs and other stakeholders through local and regional engagement events

Notably, it’s the first time NHS England has said opt out. In the past it has only ever been an objection. As a linguist, language is important to me. And the two are not synonymous no matter how often I may be told by NHS England that they are to be used interchangeably.

It’s the first time there really feels like more give, and less we’ll take without asking you first.

And it’s the first mention towards offering local and regional engagement.

There are some new hints which need explanation, such as a change towards who may use the data – described always as for secondary uses, clinicians and patients using it is new:

“ is an initiative to ensure more joined-up data is made available to clinicians, commissioners, researchers, charities and patients.”
And there are some ideas which are making progress, but seem a little stuck.
“In addition, steps have already been taken in making changes to the law”…

Whilst changes have been put into the Care Bill, other rather sensible ones, such as legal penalties for data misuse were rejected. And the purposes are still so loose as to be possible to give data for a wide range of ‘health purposed’ clients. That was the day in which it appeared fewer than 50 MPs were in the chamber to hear the Care Bill debate in which nearly 500 came in to vote. (How they can reasonably and effectively vote on something in which they did not hear the debate, I don’t understand.) These are legal changes I believe which need hurled back to Parliament to get them on track again.

Experts much wiser than me, have made a proposal of comprehensive amendments, and seem, from my lay understanding, both really positive and practical.

The “optional template letter for patients” may be something GP practices could consider using to contact individuals where they know that leaflets were not delivered. Even Dame Fiona Caldicott did not receive hers. (BBC PM listen from 33:30)

If centrally, it is known where they did not reach patients, it would be helpful for GP practices to then be able to evaluate if there is an additional need to contact their patients. For example, in my area, no one I have spoken to received a leaflet.

Perhaps that might seem trivial now, and in the past, but for trusting the scheme I believe it is really important to know why that was. Because since no opt out was originally planned I want to know that the intention was truly to tell us all. Did they print enough? Distribute enough? Follow up at all? I’ve asked to find out.  After all, it was our state money that paid for it. A previous Freedom of Information request, on the status of its distribution with Royal Mail, from Phil Booth of MedConfidential appears to contradict ministerial mutterings that said an exception was invoked. I know that for myself, I had not opted out of junk mail, yet I still didn’t get one. I knew to look out for it and inspected my pizza flyers and dog walking leaflets in every post in January. No leaflet and all of my friends were the same.

If the experts such as Dame Fiona, the GPES advisory group which in September had:

major concerns about the process for making most patients aware of the contents of the leaflets before data extraction for commenced”

and ICO felt the leaflet went out with the wrong content and was rushed then I want to know why, so that the same people are not making the same decisions, and will cost us time and trust again. Why it went ahead against every expert’s better advice is important to understand. “Regrettable that you are not now able to take any of our comments into account” was ICOs comment and the sentiment seems echoed by Dame Fiona on today’s radio broadcast.

Even a lay person like me, could see it was a disaster about to happen.

My suggestion, was that role-based patient communication would be much more understandable. Take some stereotypical sample citizens, map their ‘day-in-the-life’ using HSCIC data systems, show how these interactions send data to HSCIC and map them to show what data is extracted and where it goes, is stored and may be viewed and distributed by whom. There are an awful lot of individual scenarios so no model may match any real patient experience, but looking at it backwards, take all the HSCIC systems and extract a situation which would send the data up. A&E, School nurse, Electronic Prescription Service, Choose&Book, GP screening. Mental health call centre. It would be possible.

People should know what data, is extracted when, why and who will use it. Visuals are better than words. The leaflet failed in the case of, but would an individual letter have achieved more, in just a few sentences?

More has been achieved to raise our awareness of the Health and Social Care Information Centre and Government uses of our health data, through all the hoo-ha in the press, and the re-tweet by David Nicholson of the downfall parody, than by the original leaflet. Perhaps the leaflet’s measure of success was not intended to be a 100% reach at all. I hope we’ll understand more soon.

(** for updated thought 19th April see note below.) Should we presume an ‘optional template’ means that no paid letter will be provided from NHS England to all? GP practices may decide to use the ‘optional’ template to send out letters now. Professor Mathers had called for one. But I wonder if GPs themselves will be expected to bear the cost, of an imposed central initiative for which there is no choice to participate and yet the GPs are legally liable Data Controllers for complaints? If no funding is offered, and GP practices decide not to send letters out, it would seem a risk trade off. The risk of a patient complaining or indeed legal action, if they did not know their data was going to be extracted and and potential risk for harm ensued. Yet fair processing should be a Data Protection Act requirement. But is it for

This week also saw the list of number of patients published by GP practice. Helpfully with postcode. So if my practice were to want to post a letter to every patient in my area, at 53p second class, it would cost around four thousand pounds. I don’t know if they get any bulk discounts and one per household might reduce numbers. But that’s a lot of money – but perhaps (**) it may be covered centrally after all, though the letter does not indicate that? (I now also know how few over 90 yr old men are registered, if interested).

It seems like there is much positive going on in the undercurrents of the developments, which the general public cannot see, such as the advisory group work-in-progress.

There would seem much which needs work in a very short space of time for relaunch in autumn. But if Dame Fiona Caldicott, Chair of the panel set up to advise NHS and Ministers on the use and governance of patient information, said she thinks we need longer, then I am sure she is right. To take as long as is needed to get it right would seem sensible. To rush and fail a second time, would be irretrievable. Surely, her advice would not be ignored again?

The HSCIC this week also released the Framework Agreement between the Department of Health and HSCIC. 

It will be interesting to see if this affects and changes the HSCIC roadmap. In my opinion, it should. The addendum to widen commercial uses was pushed back but is still to resurface. There is still no clarity around commercial re-use licenses. These commercial drivers should come out if Mr.Hunt’s rock solid assurance is to be believed which, “puts beyond any doubt that the HSCIC cannot release identifiable, or potentially identifiable, patient data for commercial insurance or other purely commercial purposes.”

At the moment I would hope the HSCIC roadmap would change in its commercial focus:

“especially in relation to the potential sale of data”. 

“Help stimulate the market through dynamic relationships with commercial organisations, especially those who expect to use its data and outputs to design new information-based services.”

It remains to see if it does.

That framework is a good read with a hot coffee (and a short snaps if you are where I am). What’s missing for me, is any reassurance at all that the HSCIC will remain public. There is a large chapter on what process would need to be followed if it were to change structure or be merged. And therefore does not rule out a private owner of the single central repository for our health, social care, research and recipient of integrated ONS data in future.

“Any change to its core functions or duties, including mergers, significant restructuring or abolition would therefore require further primary legislation. If this were to happen, the Department would then be responsible for putting in place arrangements to ensure a smooth and orderly transition, with the protection of patients being paramount.”

It would appear to me, that a future intent to privatise the ownership of and more could remain open. Certain aspects of the day-to-day functions were potentially to be outsourced in a past ISCG roadmap. I would hope the core will remain firmly State owned.

Bizarrely, duck races are not treated equally across the globe. Wisconsin recently repealed their ban. It seems almost as bizarre, as the idea of selling our taxpayer financial and VAT data. Or our school pupils personal details. I wish I could say, one of these stories were not true.

What the duck is going on with Government’s attitude to our personal data?  The Cabinet Office seems to be failing to give out legally required Freedom of Information responses, and yet happily selling the knowledge of our health, wealth and our children?

“These regulations also allow the department to disclose individual pupil information, subject to the Data Protection Act 1998, to named bodies and persons who, for the purpose of promoting the education or well-being of children in England are conducting research or analysis; producing statistics; or providing information, advice or guidance. The department may decide to share pupil and children’s information with third parties on a case by case basis where it is satisfied that to do so would be in accordance with the law and the Data Protection Act, and where it considers that such disclosure would promote the education or well-being of children.”

So if McDonalds wants to run a healthy eating campaign, would they qualify?

Open Data does not equate (must read) with being open with all of our data. Tables and summaries at aggregated level of statistics are nothing to do with individual level data. Before any Government body considers if they should enable private and other organisations to use data more freely and effectively, and their stance on charging and profit from use of data, they should think twice.

Remember the daft Deregulation Bill 162? It revokes the need to sell pre-packed knitting yarn by net weight and other nonsense. Perhaps it is the ‘Exercise of regulatory functions’ which is the root cause of much of these  issues on the monetisation of our data:

Clause 63 provides a power for a Minister of the Crown to issue guidance on: how regulatory functions can be exercised so as to promote economic growth;

Sections 60-67 of the Deregulation Act currently passing through Parliament allow the removal of any regulation that conflicts with the interests of a profit-maker. If your body manages data, there’s really only going to be one way to meet the obligations of Bill 162. Sell it.

Someone needs to tell all the departments, if you have any chance at all of getting through to the finish line, stop giving away or selling any of our personal data which we trusted you with for an entirely different original purpose.

Whilst there are many people working on many manoeuvres to get all the ducks ready to relaunch for, the Government has to pay attention to the whole race. If we lose faith in the Government to make wise decisions on what will be done with all data we share for a given purpose and find later it is given to others without our knowledge, we won’t trust it with our health data. If the data warehouse may one day be sold off, then all the gameplanning and rules in between will appear to have been pointless.

This is not a race to the finish with the least bad option. needs to be exemplary if it is to have any chance of reaching the podium as the world leader in patient data-sharing management. It’s got one second chance to get a relaunch.

Without public trust it will flounder. Without GPs to patient communications thoroughly thought out it and funded, it is destined for a rough ride. Without further legislative changes, it’s not going far enough to be convincing of real commitment to change.  Without these three, it will not reach the finish line.

The best summary of why we need still much work and how to respect so many of these under good governance, came out this week, from the Chair of CAG. However, we cannot expect to have all of the answers in six months time. The commitment must be an ongoing one to continue to consult with people, to continue to work to optimally protect both privacy and the public interest in the uses of health data.”

So between Dr. Taylor and Dame Caldicott the wise seem to indicate more than 6 months is needed.

There are encouraging signs, but many issues don’t seem to be addressed yet at all, from the recent NHS England letter nor Framework Agreement. Above all, in common with the tax data sharing, pseudonymous is not equal to anonymous. It’s not only what HSCIC currently determines as identifiable, which we need vital improved governance to protect.

In any upcoming public communications, I pray don’t patronise the public saying that ‘name and address will not be extracted’ as the last FAQs and poster did. Explain instead what the Personal Demographics Service stores already, educate us how the PDS and linkage works and why. Details like this must not get lost in any rushed relaunch.

And other departments’ decisions must not put it in jeopardy.

Whilst is getting its ducks in a row, the wider Government approach to data management seems to have gone, I can’t help but say, absolutely quackers.


** 19th April Update: This via twitter comment says, if GPs get patient letters made available they only have to address them to send to their patient list. Will this happen in this case? Good news for informed communications? Let’s hope so.