Your NHS medical records are no longer secret.
Unless you act quickly, identifiable information will be uploaded from your GP-held record to central systems from where it may be passed on to others including commissioning bodies, researchers and private companies. The Government is surreptitiously selling access to records for as little as £1 a go.
Thanks to the medical privacy watchdog medConfidential, you can prevent your records falling in to the wrong hands.
For more information about what’s happening to all our medical records, see the explanation below or find out more at What’s the story?
But you still have time to demand your records remain strictly between you and your GP. To download an opt out letter, go to How to opt out.
How did we get to this? Under the Coalition’s changes to NHS legislation that came into force in April, your GP can now be required to upload personal and identifiable information from the medical record of every patient in England to central servers at the Health and Social Care Information Centre. Once this information leaves your GP practice, your doctor will no longer be in control of what data is passed on or to whom.
This information will include diagnoses, investigations, treatments and referrals as well as other things you may have shared with your doctor including your weight, alcohol consumption, smoking and family history.
Each piece of information will made identifiable by uploading it along with your NHS number, date of birth, post code, gender and ethnicity.
NHS England – the body now in charge of commissioning primary care services across England – will manage and use the information extracted by the Health and Social Care Information Centre for a range of purposes, none of which are to do with your direct medical care. These ‘secondary uses’ include patient-level tracking and monitoring, audit, business planning and contract management.
NHS England initially decided against a nationwide publicity campaign to inform the public about these changes. They have since been forced to issue a leaflet, but many people might mistake it for junk mail, so please share this information with everyone you know who you think would want to keep their medical records private.