Sunday, 28 March 2010

Summary Care Records: Include me out

Like all those of my generation (the one that grew up listening to ITMA every Friday), I have always kept myself at the cutting edge of technological and social advances, striving constantly to be among the first to be involved in every new development. Therefore I was pleased—and flattered—when I received an official invitation to participate at a very early stage in an exciting new initiative.

The invitation gave details of the impending introduction of the Summary Care Records which are to be prepared for everyone over 16; they will initially contain basic information about your health and will then be updated cumulatively with summaries of all the care you receive under the NHS. The covering letter quoted my NHS number and explained that anyone doubtful about the confidentiality of these records can refuse to have one by obtaining an opt-out form and sending it to his GP.

Well, I'm doubtful. I don't care if anyone knows, for example, that I have two false knees (rather proud of them, actually), but I do care that the records could contain information which might be used for, say, identity theft. We all know that virtually every IT project commissioned by the NHS has been characterised by grotesque incompetence in conception and implementation, has wasted huge sums of money, and has ended in failure; there is no reason to suppose that the Summary Care Records will be any different. So all the brave talk about strict security measures is not reassuring. If you think these comments are unreasonable, note this:

By the same post as my package and my wife's, two others came through our letterbox. The envelopes were identical in appearance to ours and presumably enclosed similar items. They bore our correct address, postcode and all, but the addressees were two gentlemen of whom I had never heard; I shall call them John and Digby Phish-Hacker, for those are not their names. So before the project is even launched, material marked PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL has been sent to someone whom it does not concern and who has no right to see it.

If the NHS Care Records Office has already sent John and Digby's letters to our address, how can we be sure that they have not done, or will do, something else equally crass, like allocate our NHS Numbers to them? So I am exercising my option to have nothing to do with SCRs. I put the wrongly addressed envelopes back in the post unopened, marked Return To Sender, and I hope the matter ends there, both for me and the Phish-Hackers, wherever and whoever they may be.

I shall of course complain to the NHS Careless Records Office. If I receive no acknowledgement, I will just assume that one has been written but was sent to yet another wrong address, or posted without a stamp.

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