Team Mole reporters have been taking a clinical look at the latest UK Big Brother National Health Service computer records system being trialed in Bolton...
Although it has been claimed that the system is secure, we doubt the reality, particularly as records will able to be accessed by each patient concerned...
We think it won't be too long before an enterprising computer "hacker" will be plundering the records and marketing them for debatable purposes.
The system will be ultimately introduced throughout Europe we believe...
Patients are set to be able to look at their medical records on their home computer, it has been announced.
The plan was set out by Connecting For Health, which is overseeing the introduction of the new NHS IT system - The Spine - that will cover England.
The organisation also revealed 14,500 patients in Bolton will be the first to have computerised NHS records set up.
People will receive letters telling them data including medications will be uploaded unless they object.
They will have eight weeks to view their records and raise any concerns they have.
Details can be held back, or they can choose to have their entire record remain private.
Government Ministers have said:
"The system, part of a 10-year, £6bn upgrade of NHS IT, was about improving care.
It will mean doctors across England will be able to access records containing data on medication, allergies and adverse drug reactions.
But patients will be allowed to veto their records being shared nationally".
Doctors and patients have expressed fears a compulsory electronic record system could damage the GP/patient relationship, and compromise confidentiality.
And a poll of over 1,000 GPs by the Guardian newspaper found half would consider refusing to put patient records automatically on to a new national database.
But until now ministers have argued e-records were necessary as the current paper-based system risked patient safety.
One of the complaints was that it causes delays in emergency hospital treatment while doctors contact GPs for patient details.
Patients will also be able to reverse restrictions on what details are accessible on their records if, for instance, they are in a situation where NHS staff need to see all their details.
There are a number of security weaknesses of the system starting with the use of smart cards and passwords for staff, theoretically designed to restrict access to full data to those clinicians who need it, while administrative staff would only be able to see basic patient information.
But we all know the weaknesses of the existing "chip and pin" security protection flaws with credit cards with international banks now picking up the attendant huge costs of fraud by various "cloning" methods.
The other obvious flaw in the system will be the distribution method for patent notification of user names and passwords...
Nottinghamshire GPs have discovered details such as hospital visits can be accessed even if a patient is not registered at the practice.
Health correspondent Jane Dreaper finds out how easy it is to look up personal details.
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How to OPT OUT
Dr Liaqat Natha of the Kearsley Medical Centre in Bolton, one of the two practices which will test the system, said: "There are huge potential benefits from making patient records available to all staff caring for them, through the secure NHS network."
This is the initial stage of a national project to put everyone's medical records on a computer database so any NHS GP or hospital treating them would be able to look at them.
Once the basic data is uploaded and successfully used, patients will be consulted again to see if they want all their details to be added.
The home access via the website Health Space, which will be phased in from later this summer, will give people passwords to look at their personal records from home.
Connecting for Health say the site will be highly secure, and will have far more protection than websites such as those which offer online banking.
Marlene Winfield, the National Patient Lead for the organisation, said: "We would be very foolish if we didn't use the strongest available safety measures."
She added: "For patients, this will be a huge leap forward.
"They will be able to see data such as test results and discharge notes and to add information such as whether or not they need wheelchair access for appointments."
The project in Bolton is the first step towards a national rollout.
It is expected another six areas will be taking part in the scheme by the end of the year.
Birmingham University has been asked to carry out an independent evaluation of their success.
Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chair of the British Medical Association's IT committee, said: "The pilots will have to be carefully managed and evaluated if we are to maintain the confidence of the public and healthcare workers.
"The lessons from this independent evaluation must be learnt before a more widespread roll out."
He added: "The electronic summary care records have the potential to improve patient safety and the quality of care but patients will need to be made aware of their rights.
We would want to ensure that all patients receive balanced information that clearly explains their options.
The impact on GP surgeries will also need to be closely examined as we do not want GPs to be overwhelmed with enquiries about electronic records leading to increased waiting times for patients."
British Medical Association viewpoint
The government is pushing ahead with the controversial electronic care records system...