A bad week in the bunker for care.data

Jon Hoeksma writes in EHI magazine:

Health leaders gathered in Manchester for the Healthcare Innovation Expo look set to have their future-gazing overshadowed by the disarray over care.data, after a truly disastrous week for the open data initiative.

A fortnight ago, NHS England was forced to announce a six-month delay to the project to link the Hospital Episode Statistics to other databases and make the information available to researchers and others, after a public outcry about the lack of consultation on the plans.

But the commissioning board had begun a fight back in defense of the programme, with a major communications campaign promised in an otherwise fraught session at the Commons’ health select committee, and tough new legislation unveiled by health secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Despite this, by the end of the week, care.data and its chief architect and champion Tim Kelsey, NHS England’s director of patients and information, was being mercilessly ridiculed as a fantasist, swivel-eyed dictator in a Downfall-spoof on YouTube.

The video might have remained the preserve of what its creator dubbed the “tin-foil hat wearers” had it not been merrily tweeted by Kelsey’s outgoing boss, NHS England chief executive Sir David Nicholson.  

There’s a certain irony here, given that Sir David has at times been lampooned for not being a digital native, and for being a new convert to Twitter. By Sunday, though, the video had received more than 6,000 views and featured on Sky news.

Not that Sir David’s intervention was the only reason the video went viral. Downfall videos may not be a new trope, but the care.data version is uncomfortably close to the bone.

At one point, Kelsey as Hitler raves: “They were just supposed to give us their data” and: “I should never have given them an opt-out.” The spoof also has a neat line in his unshakeable conviction that he knows what is right – even if people disagree with him.