Monthly Archives: March 2014

Murad Ahmed and Chris Smyth write in The Times: Google has pulled out of a groundbreaking deal to include NHS data within its search results, blaming a “toxic” backlash against controversial plans to link GP patient records. The internet company had been in secret talks with health chiefs over showing death rates, waiting times and other information in searches for NHS hospitals, with sources saying it feared that the project would be tarred by association with NHS England’s stalled scheme. See here.

Google pulls out of secret deal to show data on ...

Jane Fae writes for Open Democracy: The future of hangs in the balance. In the last week, rival proposals from government and by critics, have offered parliament radically different diagnoses – and cures – for the malaise now afflicting the scheme. In the end, though, the question remains: is this all too little, too late? Can recover from here? First up was a government narrative that differed little from what we have been hearing over the last few months. According to Dr Daniel Poulter, MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health, the issue was mostly one of public re-assurance. Government had already put in place far greater safeguards over patient data than had existed previously. He blamed poor communication. However, as part of the process of re-establishing public confidence he was putting forward three amendments to the Care Bill: re-stating the duty to respect […]

The future of hangs in the balance

Bryan Glick writes in Computer Weekly: The government has formally ended the troubled e-Borders programme, four years after it cancelled a £750m contract for the IT project, although its intended functions have been incorporated into a new, broader project to secure the UK’s borders. Charles Montgomery, director general of the UK’s Border Force, told a meeting of the Home Affairs Select Committee on Tuesday 11 March 2014 that e-Borders had been “terminated”. But Home Office officials were subsequently keen to point out that although the e-Borders name is no longer used, all the intended aims of the programme have been merged into the the Border System Programme (BSP), an initiative launched in January 2013. At the time BSP was put out to tender, the Home Office told Computer Weekly it was separate to e-Borders, but its scope has since been expanded. The e-Borders programme was first commissioned in 2003 to […]

Government finally ends e-Borders programme

Laura Donnelly writes in the Daily Telegraph: On Thursday the board of HSCIC announced that it will conduct an immediate audit of all data ever disclosed by the central NHS authorities. In April it will disclose details of the data released by HSCIC. Details of data released by its predecessor organisation are expected to be published the following month. The report will set out what was released and why, and in future, records of such decisions will be released quarterly. Officials said they were taking the steps in order to “improve the transparency of its decision-making and build public trust in its actions.” They said the measures were being introduced following the concerns raised by MPs last week The audit will be led by Sir Nick Partridge, a Non-Executive Director on the HSCIC Board and former Chief Executive of the Terence Higgins Trust.

Review to probe sale of NHS medical data

Nature has published an editorial on, including some reflections on public confidence in the project: On 19 February, the NHS, which had stubbornly dismissed such criticisms, reluctantly admitted that its critics might have a point, and postponed the launch until the autumn. But the agency still seems to be in denial, arguing that opposition is merely down to problems of communication and public perception. That response is wrong. is far from ready for launch. Incredibly, with just a few weeks to go to the scheduled launch, the NHS had not even laid out in detail which groups would be able to access the data, and on what terms. Thus, the public could not fully know what they were signing up to, raising fears that personal data might end up, for example, in the hands of insurance and other commercial companies. Economic growth is a core goal of any […]

Simon Sharwood writes in The Register: The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) and the NHS Information Centre are riding out a three-pronged privacy storm. The first privacy incident starts with this PA Consulting document titled “Placing the patient at the centre of healthcare: PA report on the future of healthcare.” On page eight, a section titled “The cloud can transform the way the NHS connects and uses data” the discussion turns to “an archive called Hospital Episode Statistics (HES)” that contains “a huge amount of detailed data” about the activity of “every Hospital in England.” The data set occupied a one-terabyte disk drive and as PA Consulting tried to ready it for analysis they found it “took several hours” just to load it into “a traditional Microsoft SQL database”. In an attempt to hasten analysis of the document, here’s what happened next: “The alternative was to upload it to the […]

Triple-headed NHS privacy scare after hospital data reach marketers, Google

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, 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, and its chief architect and champion Tim Kelsey, NHS England’s director of patients and information, was being […]

A bad week in the bunker for

Ben Goldacre writes in The Guardian: I am embarrassed. Last week I wrote in support of the government’s plans to collect and share the medical records of all patients in the NHS, albeit with massive caveats. The research opportunities are huge, but we already knew that the implementation was chaotic, with poor public information, partly because the checks and balances on who gets access to data – and how – have not yet been devised or implemented. When you’re proposing to share our most private medical records, vague promises and an imaginary regulatory framework are not reassuring. Now it’s worse. On Monday, the Health and Social Care Information Centre admitted giving the insurance industry the coded hospital records of millions of patients, pseudonymised, but re-identifiable by anyone with malicious intent, as I explained last week. These were crunched by actuaries into tables showing the likelihood of death depending on various […] is in chaos. It breaks my heart