Big Business To Access NHS Patients Data

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IT was disclosed this weekend that by Autumn every high street pharmacy, from the local independent pharmacy right through to the giant supermarket chains like Tesco, Boots and Superdrug, will have complete access to every person in England’s medical records.

All the confidential data held by GPs on an individual in their ‘summary care records’ – which records all details of past medication prescribed by doctors along with other personal information such as medical diagnosis – will be handed over to these giant commercial companies.

The rollout of this scheme follows an evaluation trial run carried out in 140 pharmacies, including chains like Superdrug and supermarket pharmacies, throughout the country. Unsurprisingly 96% of these pharmacies gave the scheme a thumbs up. This contrasts sharply with a parallel consultation with patients affected by the trial which garnered only 15 responses.

These responses were dismissed by the government and NHS England as too small to be considered.

This prompted Phil Booth from the campaign group medConfidential to note: ‘It is just extraordinary: to roll out a national programme on the basis of 15 responses from patients, some of whom are very likely to have been negative about it. Fifteen people out of 60 million? That’s not an evidence base for a national policy; that is an exercise in manipulation.’

Booth went on to correctly point out that this confidential medical information on 96% of the population of England would prove ‘irresistible’ to these commercial companies and would allow them to target patients for selling drugs and over the counter medicines.

He said: ‘These are commercial organisations, large chains, who are looking for opportunities to make money. If you give them access to all this medical information it is irresistible to them to use it, it doesn’t matter if you try to ban it.’

All the confidential medical records held on the entire population is a positive goldmine for commercial interests, from supermarkets targeting individuals for over the counter drugs through to the insurance companies who are clamouring to be given access to this information.

This latest move to hand this information over for these companies to make a profit out of health is part and parcel of the scheme set in motion by the last coalition government to put everyone’s medical records on a giant computer data base that could be accessed by the state and private commercial companies.

But behind it lurks an even more dangerous intent – another step in the privatisation of health and the destruction of the NHS. For the ordinary person it must be a puzzle why pharmacists, who are highly trained in their field of drugs and their effects, should need this information. Their job is not to diagnose illness and prescribe treatments but to dispense the drugs prescribed by a GP.

The only way this information would be vital is if this role of the private pharmacist is dramatically changed and they become substitutes for local GPs. This is fully in line with the Tory’s open war against the whole of the GP service which has seen doctors demonised as lazy because they object to Cameron’s pledge of 7 day a week working, a pledge that he insists can be forced on them for no extra cost to the exchequer.

If GPs cannot provide this service because of the chronic underfunding then their role can be passed on to the pharmacies run by the supermarkets and chain stores. Highly trained doctors will be replaced by pharmacists completely untrained to carry out the job of a GP.

Supermarkets will provide full blown surgeries staffed by pharmacists and shop workers diagnosing and prescribing to patients and raking in profit for their employers. Handing over private health records to these private companies is another step in the overall plan by the Tories to completely annihilate the NHS and hand it over to the profit-hungry capitalists who are salivating at the thought of the profits to be made out of people’s health.

Only by ending this capitalist system, which is wholly driven by profit, can a free NHS be assured.