Monday 24 February 2014
Hospital records of all NHS 47 million patients sold to insurers !
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.
Phil Booth, from privacy campaign group medConfidential, said: “The language in the document is extraordinary; this isn’t about patients, this is about exploiting a market. Of course any commercial organisation will focus on making a profit – the question is why is the NHS prepared to hand this data over?”
He added: “We have been categorically told that it would be illegal for GP data to be handed over to insurers, yet already all this hospital data has been extracted. It blows out of the water the idea that patients’ privacy is being protected.”
Last week Tim Kelsey, director for patients and information at NHS England, said it will be “a criminal offence” for any information entered into the new giant database, which will combine GP and hospital records, to be sold for insurance purposes. However, a database which only contains hospital records remains a separate entity, with its own rules allowing greater access to third parties.
There has been a growing backlash against the scheme with family doctors and privacy campaigners raising fears that data could be misused.
More on this story here.