The National Health Service (NHS) has recently announced a scheme whereby insurance firms and drug companies can buy access to all patient medical data.
The NHS and the Government claim that selling this collection of data will improve medical research.
Patients have been informed about the scheme through the circulation of leaflets to their homes by the Health and Social Care Information Centre.
The sale of NHS medical records should be illegal as the information that we give to doctors is confidential.
Although names will be omitted from the records sold, enough information will be provided to allow for patients to be identified from by their date of birth, postcode, ethnicity, gender and NHS number.
Data gathered from hospital and GP records will also include sensitive information such as mental health conditions and diseases as well as lifestyle habits such as smoking and alcohol intake.
Impact spoke to University of Nottingham students to find out what they think about the sale.
I don’t want private companies knowing my personal details.
First year Geography student, Katie Martin, said that “the sale of NHS medical records should be illegal as the information that we give to doctors is confidential.” Another first year History student added: “I don’t want private companies knowing my personal details.”
‘38 Degrees’ has set up a petition opposing the sale, in which the organisation describes the policy as ‘a breach of privacy’. The petition demands that Jeremy Hunt, Health Secretary, intervene to stop the sell-off and also conduct a review into out how this sale was originally passed in light of the sensitivity of this policy.
The legitimacy of the NHS data sell off has similarly been questioned by the Labour Party, who claim that many patients are likely to have their data sold to corporations without even realising it.
Any UoN student looking to opt out of having their medical records sold to private companies, must download an opt-out form from the University of Nottingham Health Services website, fill it out and hand it into Cripps Health Centre before 1st March 2014.
Failure to hand in an opt out form by this date entitles the NHS to sell off student patient records with no need for formal consent. It is also worth noting that it is impossible for patients to choose to opt out from this scheme after March.
Image: Antonia Paget