Opt out of NHS data grab, urges Green Party

Catherine holding form

Stroud District Green Party is urging local people to opt out of the government’s proposed NHS ‘data grab’, saying the plans could lead to personal medical data being sold to commercial companies.

The scheme would see millions of GP records centralised into one database, which private companies could then gain access to.

Campaigners around the country have lobbied the government to scrap the plans to share peoples’ data with private companies for profit.

The outcry has led to the deadline of September 1 for people to ‘opt out’ of having their data shared being postponed while action is taken to address privacy concerns and raise public awareness of the scheme (research by Which? found that only 55% of people had even heard of it).

Cllr Catherine Braun, Green group leader on Stroud District Council, explained why it’s important to opt out. “There is already a system for sharing personal data for the benefit of the patient, for example between GPs and consultants or A&E departments,” she said. “And there is a system for sharing anonymised data for research purposes. We support such data sharing as it’s for the public good, not for profit.

“Unfortunately, this new idea, being rushed through by stealth, without consultation or scrutiny, is part of a drive to turn one of the UK’s most treasured assets into a money-making scheme for US health companies. Data will not be truly anonymous: the so-called ‘minimised’ data will include year of birth and postcode and it could be possible to work out from that who individuals are. For example, if you were the only 69-year-old male in your post code it would be possible to work out that you are the individual referred to in your medical records. This sensitive and personal data could then be shared with a life insurance company, which might then decline your business or raise your premiums.

“Our NHS may then have to buy back the processed data, so this will not only cost people their privacy, in the long run it will hit us all in the pocket. This must be resisted. Your data is worth a fortune to private corporations, but healthcare should not be used to enrich private companies.”

Cllr Braun added: “Until there are safeguards in place to make sure that people’s information is kept safely and remains genuinely anonymised, we strongly recommend that people opt out of allowing their data to be shared.”

To opt out, ask your GP surgery for a form or follow the instructions at https://digital.nhs.uk/your-data/opting-out-of-data-sharing

For more information: https://digital.nhs.uk/services/national-data-opt-out