back to article Cameron: Give the UK's health records to Google

David Cameron has repeated his pledge to cancel the ContactPoint database and the ID card scheme if the Tories win the next election. Speaking at the weekend, Cameron said the Tories would also look closely at the National Programme for IT - the controversial and expensive NHS modernisation programme. Echoing last September's …

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Oh Dear

It was going so well and then he rammed his foot in his mouth.

Just when you think he might have a clue, David Cameron reminds us all that he is at least as stupid as Brown.

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Coat

NPfIT might be a bloated cock-up, but...

...the idea of MS or Google running it as a hosted service just makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

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Anonymous Coward

*HEADSMASH*

"You don’t need a massive central computer to do this. People can store their health records securely online"

OH

.

.

MY

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.

GOD

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I hope that this piece...

...of fuckwittery will be given as much prominence as Labour's cockups; proof, if any were needed, that Cameron's merely another soundbite-generator, with not a scooby concerning the implications of his hare-brained suggestions. After all, so long as it sounds snappy, promises something for nothing, and doesn't have too many specifics attached and can be used to beat the government around a bit it's got to be good, right?

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Stop

There are also concerns...

... about the use of anonymised records for pharmaceutical research.

Not to mention you suddenly starting to receive targeted adverts for anti-cholesterol medicines or nicotine patches or erectile dysfunction pills...

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Anonymous Coward

Cancelling ID cards wouldn't save much, if anything.

Because all of the enabling systems are required for the UK to meet its treaty obligations on fully biometric passports. The current program is also replacing a number of existing life expired systems supported by the IPS. The ID Card production facilities would produce both passports and ID Cards, take away the ID cards, and it actually might cost the tax payer more because the facilities will not be fully utilised, or the costs recovered by the additional charge for the ID Card. So well do David (Sunshine & Thrift, an oxymoron if ever there was) Cameron.

Oh, I'd trust HMG with my personal medical records far more than I would Microsoft, Google or any other Internet company. Once your record goes out into the "cloud" it will be virtually impossible to protect it from unauthorised access, or tampering, and maintain an accessible audit trail.

Within the NHS your record, is not just your medical record, but also everybody who has looked at it or amended it, for whatever reason, which is the case with most government systems, and one of the reasons they are so horrendously expensive to build when compared with commercial systems. There is no way any commercial company would protect your data as well as governments do, you actually get to hear far more about people loosing government data than you do commercial data.

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It seems an impossible task...

...for the UK to produce a senior politician with even a minor clue.

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Anonymous Coward

Yet again...

This just proves that if you have the ability to run for Prime Minster, it should automatically make you exempt from the job....

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Flame

Errr... two words Dumb Ass!

Lets remember the Yank companies are forced to comply with the Patriot Act, this means they have to give up all data (even if off-shored) if Uncle Sam says so. Best bit, they also must not tell anyone.

So with that in mind, lets put all your most intimate and personal data online, under a Yank companies control. (thus the USA Gov has a copy when they choose to view it).

This guys is such an idiot, and I am so glad he is not running the show at present. You would have thought it would be hard to beat the current lots incompetence... but no, this guys is a real disaster so waiting to happen.

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Anonymous Coward

Testicles

"Because all of the enabling systems are required for the UK to meet its treaty obligations on fully biometric passports."

I call bollocks on this. Since when does ICAO require fingerprints and iris scans? What are you, a Home Office shill or some kind of marketing droid for IBM?

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MnM

he doesn't have to know about IT

he just needs to be well advised, and stfu in the meantime. Please be better than labour, please be better than labour...

As an aside, what are people's thoughts on the BCS? I've had very limited experience of them, took their unfailable testers exam, and thought it explained a lot about the quality of your average tester. I got the impression of a very fuddy organisation fwiw. Just curious as I do think gov needs impartial IT advice and wondering if the BCS would come up to snuff.

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Black Helicopters

Buying out of the contract

It's not a big hit paying off Tony/Gordie's mates when you get to award the new contract to your own mates....

Ah Corruption, Oh how I love the smell of a brief case stuffed with cash on a Monday.

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Anonymous Coward

LMAO

Google?.... Give them our health records?... Stop it you guys.. you're killing me....no, wait, seriously?

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Flame

Cameron shows his true self

I have always held the view that all modern-day politicians are selfish, power-motivated, failed celeb wannabees, revenge-driven airheads who were probably teased incessantly at school. This is becoming a confirmed belief as I come across more and more soundbite gaffs uttered by political individuals who clearly demonstrate they have an IQ of zero or less with a similar level of knowledge.

Message to the Tory party: Lose your half-wit leader or you will clearly lose the next election. At least the oh-so-false Blair had more sense to consult his backroom personnel before shooting off his gob. Perhaps that's why Labour is in power today and you are not.

On that note, a message to the Labour party: Lose the equally foot-in-mouth expert Harriet Harman and the megalomanic Jacqui Smith or the half-wit will be in charge of the country.

Anonymous post... Ms Smith might be monitoring this.

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Anonymous Coward

Anyone else think...

... Cameron's point was likely something along the lines of "many thousands of other systems holding a comparable amount of data can be delivered for a fraction of the cost of NPfIT, and do so in a way that is acceptable to the users of the service and the providers of the service, so why don't we have a look at those instead"?

I really don't think Dave-o was suggesting a Google Docs account for all of us with our medical records loaded into it.

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just goes to show

that you can teach a politician technical words, but you can't expect them to learn what they mean.

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@AC: Cancelling ID cards wouldn't save much, if anything.

Trust the government with personal and sensitive data? Surely you can't possibly be referring to the same government that has such a great track record of leaving details on trains, in taxis, losing millions of records in the post, allowing millions of records to be pulled from the system, that last year was losing at least one laptop a day and that's failed with virtually every major IT project ever undertaken in the UK? THAT Government?

Wow! You must be living in cloud cuckoo land.... either that or smoking something REALLY strong!

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Go

Double-U Tee Eff?

This just gets worse. I think I'll pass on voting in the next general election, simply because I can then evade blame for the resulting asshattery. Google? Google is the biggest threat to privacy ever conceived. I'd rather have NuLabour's über-database than Brin and Page gawking at my health records and silently selling these on to insurance companies - not that I could, in all conscience, ever vote Labour again. Check the smarmy bastard's share portfolio...

Labour: Hypocritical Big Brother control freaks. Conservatives: Clueless self-interest. BNP: Racists, bigots and xenophobes. UKIP: Blinkered, single issue incompetents. Lib-Dems: The less said the better. Internment camps for chavs (check out last election's manifesto)? We'd be a laughing stock. Plaid: Who? The local candidate made me smile at his insistence on discussing his "plan" to re-nationalise the railways when I raised the civil liberties issue, like I gave a shit about what is, in all truth, a freight network never designed for passengers in the current political climate. What's the point? You can't get a straight answer out of any of them.

Oh, just as an aside, how can they justify going on about "The War Against Terror," Iraq and Afghanistan in one breath, then say we have the largest public borrowing figure in *peacetime* the next? They must think we're stupid. And well done to Broon's people for deflecting the flak away from Wacky Jacqui's expenses and onto some replaceable aide for those e-mails. Rather neat was that bit of work.

Proceed. Because they probably will, whoever they are.

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Coat

Well yes...

"You don’t need a massive central computer to do this. People can store their health records securely online"

Well he is correct. People CAN store their health records online in a secure manner. But they wont.

They will leave the username and passwords on a post-it, or in a .txt file named "Passwords" on their desktop.

Average joe can't be trusted with such valuable data, unfortunately.

So yes. A "massive computer" as he puts it is needed.

I'll get my coat. I hate this country..

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Joke

At Least

With HMG you expect them to loose your records.

Do you think if you wanted to psh your operation up the schedule you could throw a few adwords into your medical record

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Unhappy

In my experience...

...the NHS can't even bring up an x-ray taken by another hospital 3 miles away the week before at the moment. Sod Google, why don't we just give patients THEIR OWN medical records on 16GB USB keys? WHy does there need to be a colossally expensive centralised patient records system at all?

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He has a point, just not the one he thinks

This can be done much more cheaply. Now while I wouldnt give this to google or MS, a form of NHSWiki, might actual work and be useful.

Most development shops now have some form of wiki, and in the grand scheme of thing doctors arent that much differently.

The biggest hardle would be the horrid "wiki" markup languages and thats not exactly rocket since to improve

If you look at paper based patient notes, they arent that different to a wiki, with annotations etc, only with a wiki you could add images (xrays etc).

I would want it on a closed network but thats not hard, the universities have something along that vein (pun?) with JANET.

Give it to a few decent contracts, NOT a cowboy like EDS and you will have a decent IT systm.

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Boffin

Cameron cannae, ken.

The Scots must be loving this!

DC, in comic irony, displays ignorance beyond woeful, pitiful, or despairing; absurd is nearer the remark. Empowered in post-electoral bliss, he may punt patients' private particulars in England and Wales to the American SuperCorps, but where the Haggis roams free their NHS records do not - the wherewithal to decide hither or thither thoroughly devolved.

Betwixt Labour's incompetence and Tory ignorance; or a bet on the outside runner, the unremarkable Clegg? I don't like the look of yours.

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Advanced SCR?

Dear Register

There appears to be some confusion here. The Summary Care Record is the data uploaded from GP surgeries. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the hospital installations such as Cerner Milleniium, Lorenzo etc.

The Summary Care Record is hardly advanced. Just 6 PCTs are involved, and of those (as at 1st April 2009) only 5 have uploaded any data at all. Only 200,000 records have been uploaded after >2 years of this project and then with multiple problems. The number if GP surgeries involved is tiny.

Of the handful of "fast follower" PCTs planning to start uploading, we are talking about 1 or 2 surgeries per PCT.

Hampshire PCT has no intention of uploading to the SCR until at least 2010. Others will be the same.

The SCR could be cancelled in an instant without anyone noticing.

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@frank

Thats what France does, to the extent that when you have a Xray etc, you actually pick up the xray, and can go to a different hospital clutching the actual photographs...

They also seem to have a massively sucessful health card system, that links back via chip and pin secured private links to the central health database they already have. Get prescribed something, and you get a print out from the doc but forget the print out and the chemist swipes your card and they already know what he's prescribed because his connected terminal has uplinked it. Stops you being killed by a handwriting error...

Is the nhs computing for health system web and standards based too, or a complete balls up of microsoft proprietory pork with lashings of BT special sauce?

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Go

Fed up with "privacy concerns"

Have you noticed how bad the NHS is at embracing simple technology?

Mobile phones anyone? (they were soooo dangerous)

SMS?

Email?

The "privacy concerns" brigade has been killing innovation for years.

We all know that using the telephone and post is far less secure than any email system, yet electronic communication has effectively been shut down for years in the NHS.

We need to embrace a cheap, simple ideas and stop being bullied into perfection.

We may leak a few confidential disasters, but save £15 billion, or whatever this rubbish is costing.

The NHS should be aspiring to be ALDI, not M&S. (If you want M&S you go private).

p.s. In Australia the patients keep their X-rays under their bed, it is the most effective system I have ever seen.

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Coat

fuk it

Lets all move,this cuntry is going to the dogs.

Any recommendations? Somewhere sunny preferably.

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Cameron

I think he was only referring to those (very few) who really needed or wanted to make their information available, and then giving them total control over the data.

Of course, there are far better ways of imparting info to A&E docs if - for example - you have a severe allergy say to penicillin (and by severe I mean anaphylactic, not just an itchy rash sometimes).

Google Health is just one concept, and it will clearly not appeal to many. However, you control what is available and if all that's on your "Google" record is "allergy to PenV" then you might be OK with that. HealthVault isn't available in this country as yet.

For that matter, most households have broadband and most ISPs provide some free web hosting. You could set up a password protected area on your own web site, with your (very limited) critical medical info on it. Might be preferable to Google if you feel you absolutely have to do something.

Best to discuss this with your GP though. You have to ask yourself why you are considering this if your GP hasn't already raised the subject with you.....

Neil

www.nhsdatabase.info

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Happy

In my Google account?

Yeah doctor, I'm a chronic MS sufferer and require daily prescriptions of marijuana. Honest, look, my Google Health account says so!

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Google and who?

"Just when you think he might have a clue, David Cameron reminds us all that he is at least as stupid as Brown."

LOL

Not *that* stupid, surely?

Still and all, using the words "online" and "secure" in the same sentence ... and when we got to "Google" and "Microsoft" (currently under legal investigation in the EU) my jaw dropped.

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Boffin

Callling Party Members - please

There must be more than a few in the broad church of Reg readers who are members of the Conservative Party. Can some of them please take the trouble to try to explain so that it permeates to Dave what Open Source is about?

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LPF

To all

Maybe and I know this is farfecthed but maybe he was just giving examples of the type of system that

could be implimented. how about you guys unbunch your knickers!

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Here's an idea...

I suspect many of these government IT projects are designed from scratch - but as ever with the government, they keep revising the requirements over time.

So how about finding an existing piece of distributed large-scale database software, then approaching the company concerned with your big wad of cash and ask very kindly if they wouldn't mind sparing a few staff to customise it to your needs?

Or is that far too logical for government to consider?

-oOo-

Meanwhile, with all the delays to both this health database and ContactPoint, even if a future government decided to launch the ID card project, we'd probably have to wait 5-10 years before they could be introduced because it would take that long to develop the database to store the info...

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Col

Google Docs

Why would I WANT to store my health records online, securely or not? Paper files, in mine or my doctors' custody, with a power of attorney being devolved by law onto my next of kin or legal representative (the latter, given proper proof, being prefered) should - and have been for years - be sufficient.

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Anonymous Coward

Tories drop the tech vote

don't they get it, no one wants their medical records on digital format? How hard is this to comprehend.

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doesn't need a big/central computer

Every general practice already has a server with a large number of (partial) records on it.

Leave them there.

They are connected by a hopefully secure TCP/IP network. Leave it there.

What is needed is an API defining the questions a computer in another practice, a hospital or wherever is permitted to ask, ( - isdiabetic($nhs_no) lastbp($nhs_no) listcurrent medication($nhs_no)and so on), a central directory so machines can find each other - not entirely unlike DNS or LDAP, and a means of certifying identity (I'd favour Gnu PG but there are several).

Modern computing consists largely of machines and programs lying ("emulating") to each other, and building shims to implement those API functions in calls coming as though from a terminal or the GUI for the various existing programs in primary care would be routine work, incremental, and not involve losses in translation, which all centralising and converting approaches do.

Taking a lesson from the large disparate distributed system - The Internet - on how to do these things is not stupid.

Film for medical imaging is on the way out though, it isn't as usable as digital, and the software to handle it is well-developed.

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Classic IT

Solution in need of a problem....

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@ Adrian Midgley - festina lente?

Spot on, 'leave it there' is better than a centralised database . But there are still difficulties, e.g.:

Some aspects of the API would encroach on ethical issue which are difficult to define. Between whom and when is breach of confidentiality appropriate with, say, details such as is_pot_smoker or may_well_be_spouse_beater?

Even with an open-source approach, how might it be possible to provide a secure means of logging the who, why and when of access to an individual's data?

Equally, given the usefulness of the bulk data for management and research which it would be hard to deny, how would it be possible to prevent piecemeal data trawling and re-assembly into a separate database?

Aside from possible privatisation of the NHS by stealth, in the provisioning of equipment, digital medical imaging does indeed seem to have been well implemented. Perhaps this is partly because the data doesn't contain nuanced details that make anonymisation difficult. But even here, a radiologist chum seems to be appropriately astute in some of his diagnoses when he knows that a particular illness is more likely among members of specific ethnic or social subgroups; so his optimal diagnosis sometimes requires access to more detailed personal information.

Some aspects of good medicine do need a holistic approach and the change in general practice towards being a referral service rather than primary care does require that entire records should available to consultants rather than limited data subsets. It's not an easy problem.

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Joke

Surely Google would just sell ALL your data?

Surely Google would just sell ALL your data? Then you can get viagra pill pusher spam becasue according to your sold medical records you DO need it!

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Boffin

@Adrian Midgley

"Every general practice already has a server with a large number of (partial) records on it.

Leave them there.

They are connected by a hopefully secure TCP/IP network. Leave it there."

Excellent points.

Provided all medical offices have a computer system of some kind it *should* be completely possible to assemble a local (temporary cache) copy of your *composite* record. New items become the local part of the record. Held locally.

Hmm. In principle your record becomes a "meta record," with links to chunks of local stuff and links remote parts. Gosh. Its a pseudo web page of patient data!

Worst case for data is likely to be an X-ray image (IIRC 6MB, 2048 pixels square, 12 bits a pixel)

So what kind of NHS wide deal could the NHS get for all hospitals?2Mbs symmetrical DSL at least?That's 24secs per X-Ray with no compression (no way IRL) so about 4 mins for 10 X-rays , interlaced with all other parts of someone's record. 10mins max to assemble your whole medical history ? Back up the cache so there are multiple secure (encrypted) copies in case of a doctor surgery having their server stolen or the locally generated stuff only?

Of course this way has no decade long £12.7 bn roll out of some standard (but likely to need heavy tailoring to fit) hospital management system. And defining really good APIs (data translation, queries, security and privacy etc.) takes real brains.

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Stop

@ MnM

The BCS did a presentation at my University, and afterwards the lecturer told us his take on BCS was not to bother. I had free membership for a year and cancelled afterwards; in other words I agree.

No point in BCS other than some people want it on their CVs: people who aren't in the know might think it's a good thing.

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