UK: Hospital records of all NHS patients sold to insurers

If this is true, then heads need to roll.  And the sooner, the better.

Laura Donnelly reports:

The medical records of every NHS hospital patient in the country have been sold for insurance purposes, The Telegraph can reveal.

The disclosure comes days after controversial plans to extract patient data from GP files were put on hold, amid concerns over the scheme.

Those in charge of the programme have repeatedly insisted that it will be illegal for information extracted from GP files to be sold to insurers, who might seek to target customers or put up their prices.

However, a report by a major UK insurance society discloses that it was able to obtain 13 years of hospital data – covering 47 million patients – in order to help companies “refine” their premiums.

As a result they recommended an increase in the costs of policies for thousands of customers last year. The report by the Staple Inn Actuarial Society – a major organisation for UK insurers – details how it was able to use NHS data covering all hospital in-patient stays between 1997 and 2010 to track the medical histories of patients, identified by date of birth and postcode.

SOURCE: The Telegraph.

Keep in mind that the anonymization or pseudoanonymization promised by the government for supposedly would not use date of birth and postcode, which are two of the three pieces that increase the risk of identifying or re-identifying patients. So why were all these data given to insurers with such information reportedly included? Precisely so they could identify and track individual cases. Did the patients know and consent to their information being shared this way? Did they know and consent to their information being used to increase their premiums?

The SIAS paper can be found here (pdf, download link)

h/t, @owenboswarva

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