Some of you may have seen reports in the media recently about the government’s NHS Care Records System – a huge national database of patient medical records and personal information sometimes referred to as the NHS ‘Spine’ that everyone’s details are due to be uploaded to sometime in the next year.

There are 1.3 million people working in the NHS as well as a huge number of temporary agency staff—not just doctors and nurses, but managers, administrative staff, IT staff and contractors. Potentially thousands of NHS employees and central government bureaucrats will have access to not only your medical records but also your demographic details, name, address, NHS Number, GP details, phone number (even if it’s ex-directory) and mobile number. Anything you disclose to any doctor, nurse, midwife, health visitor, health professional, NHS employee, pharmacist, at any hospital, surgery or clinic will be stored on this massive central government database. This could include sensitive issues such as sexuality, ethnicity, genetics, mental health issues, illicit drug use, abortion, contraception, impotence, paternity, infertility, HIV, sexually transmitted diseases, infidelity, personal relationships, emotional problems, test results, domestic violence, rape and sexual abuse.

Then there is the risk of computer errors that could have you wrongly labelled an alcoholic for example, as in the case of one woman who only discovered the mistake after it had been on her records for 15 years. She is now one of the most vociferous campaigners against the Spine.

After much opposition from the public and a large proportion of GPs and negative coverage in the press, the Dept of Health have backed down somewhat and it’s now (allegedly) possible to opt out of having some of your details on this database.

One of the main ways is to write to your GP requesting that they don’t upload the data they hold about you onto the Spine.

For more information about opting out (including a standard letter you can print out and send to your GP) go to http://www.nhsconfidentiality.org/?page_id=9

Even if you feel there isn’t anything in your records you wouldn’t mind sharing with god knows who, you should think about opting out on principle as an objection to the increasing attacks on our privacy. What with ID cards and the National Identity Register, the database state and complete surveillance society is almost upon us…

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