Observations The week in medicine

Are medical secrets up for grabs?

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39084.441053.59 (Published 04 January 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:16
  1. Rebecca Coombes, journalist rcoombes@bmjgroup.com
  1. 1London

    What's happened?

    The NHS's ill fated computer project has made the news again, this time over the government's climbdown from putting medical records on a national database.

    With public confidence in the ongoing £20bn upgrade of NHS computer systems right down there with the government's handling of Iraq, the news that electronic medical records would not, as originally planned, be automatically uploaded to a central computer “spine” was mothers' milk to British newspapers.

    The security of the sinister sounding “spine” was the main focus of press concern. Do people want to risk others finding out they were a teenage bed wetter, or once had anal warts?

    Under the initial proposals, summary patient records—including medicines taken, adverse reactions, and allergies—were to be made available for access nationally by GPs and hospitals. Under pressure, health minister Lord Warner produced a report the week before Christmas, promising patients an opt out. This softened approach would also allow patients to access and amend online records before they are sent to the national database.

    What the papers say

    The Guardian, which had been running a campaign against a compulsory national database of …

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