Wednesday, November 21, 2007

An accident waiting to happen - the systemic failure of centralised record systems

The announcement yesterday by the UK Chancellor of
the loss of two computer discs containing the personal details of 25 million people is a disaster in and of itself but it also draws fresh attention to the on-going saga associated with the UK's Connecting for Health IT project. Those who have read some of my earlier postings on NPfIT, as it is known, will appreciate that I have been part of a group of 23 academics calling for an independent review of the multi-billion pound project. Despite a strong case for such a review the government has dug its heels in. Perhaps this event will lead to a reappraisal?

As one commentator has said: ". . . It is beyond farce, past comprehension, criminally irresponsible and beneath contempt. All those lectures from government and authorities about keeping our personal data safe; every statement ever made about the security of the proposed NHS database of everybody's personal medical records; each claim that the Children's Database containing all their personal details will somehow make our kids safer; and of course each and every promise about the safety of the national identity register - exposed as quite, quite worthless. . . "

Some other recent developments include:

'Doctors' support for the NHS National Programme for IT (NPfIT) has declined sharply in the past three years, the latest survey from medical research company Medix has revealed.' ........BUT ....'Angela Eagle, exchequer secretary to the Treasury, told parliament last month that the NPfIT was a success. "Without the programme, the NHS could no longer function, and it is already providing essential services and significant benefits to tens of thousands of clinicians and millions of patients. It is therefore a success story that ought to be acknowledged"'

The government has rejected calls by the Commons Health Select Committee for NHS Connecting for Health to hand over greater contractual power to trusts and strategic health authorities as part of the NPfIT local ownership programme.

The Department of Health's response to the Health Committee report on the Electronic Patient Record rejects the committee's recommendation that sealed-envelope data should be kept out of the secondary uses service (SUS). Sealed-envelope data is the stuff you don't want shared, and SUS is the database that lets civil servants, medical researchers others access to masses of health data. '
Critics of the National Programme for IT have attacked a Government report as ‘simply untruthful’, after it backed security measures used in the controversial Secondary Uses Service.'

NHS IT bosses have launched a review of security surrounding the Summary Care Record amid fears it will be targeted by blackmailers and identity thieves.

More 'teething problems'

There was no squalor when sister ran the ward: ....'the Health Care's Commission report highlights is that the top-heavy hospital administration ostensibly in charge at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells were so pre-occupied with jumping through the hoops of centrally imposed targets as to be unaware of what was going on in their wards.