NHS patients' health data to be anonymised and shared

Jo Best reports:

The government has finally released the long-awaited NHS Information Strategy.

The document, initially set for release last year, was launched on Monday and paves the way for the anonymisation and reuse of patient data.

“Our electronic care records [are] becoming a core source of all professional information. These records are a rich source of information on quality and outcomes. When combined and made available in anonymised form, this will support a shift to measure and reward quality and clinically meaningful outcomes for care and health,” the strategy document says.

According to the strategy, “meaningful” information and evidence on outcomes will be routinely captured in future by health and social care workers, and used as a source of business intelligence. The information will then be used for research and to improve health systems.

Read more on DigitalGov.

Wait. Is this the same NHS that has had numerous privacy and security breaches? Do they understand that most “anonymized” data sets can be re-identified or narrowed down based on only three pieces of information?

And will they, in their attempt to make the data usable, sacrifice data security and make this open season for hackers or others who might – just because they can – access databases and change or corrupt data?

The list of things that can go wrong here is long. While the intent is good, I’m not sure the NHS has proven itself up to the task of adequately securing databases.

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