Hidden uses of medical records

There is a hidden use of your medical records that the Department of Health does not tell patients about.

Every time you attend a hospital as either an outpatient, inpatient or an A&E attendance, all your personal and clinical details are sent to BT without your consent. Even sensitive procedures such as abortions/terminations are sent to BT.

BT acts as a clearing house and sends your hospital a records to your Primary Care Trust, Strategic Health Authority, the Department of Health and even ‘Dr Foster’.

Your personal and clinical details include your postcode, date of birth, NHS number, GP details, consultant details, hospital, clinic your attended, procedure/operation, when you were admitted to hospital, the date of your discharge and whether you will be seen at the hospital again. As there are only 3 or 4 addresses to a postcode, with a date of birth it is easy to identify someone. See ‘Helen’s story‘ for further information.

If you attend a mental health clinic or are mental health inpatient this means that even more detailed personal and clinical information will be collected on what is known as a “Minimum Data Set” and sent to BT.

When the new NHS Care Records are fully operational this will also mean your GP records and any Sexual Health/GUM Clinic you have attended will be available for the Department of Health to use for these secondary purposes. At the present time your GP records do not leave your GP surgery, nor do your Sexual Health/GUM Clinic attendance medical records leave the clinic. In future, even if you choose to lock down your medical records or place sensitive information in sealed envelopes, this will all still be sent to the private company and distributed without your consent.

The Department of Health says that when your medical records are used for secondary uses they will be anonymised, but this could not be further from the truth. I have obtained a document from the Department of Health under the Freedom of Information Act that Professor Ross Anderson from Cambridge University put on his website, which says that they will not be anonymising this medical data. The FOI document I obtained is here.

To find out just how much of a threat to privacy NHS Care Records represent, read on…