UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

The madness of NHS data mining

An unbelievable report in Tuesday’s Daily Telegraph reveals that Atos has been given the contract to extract patient records from GP surgeries as part of the NHS data sharing scheme. The data is already open to data mining by pharmaceutical firms (arguably an ethical dimension for research into health/ill health correlations on issues like obesity) but would anyone seriously trust ATOS? These are hugely complex (and commercially valuable) data sets with every risk that swathes of data that could be depersonalised and end up being in the public/commercial domain!

This should be internal data-management in the NHS used to inform health research and in fact funding streams (I wouldn't be against the use of the data for research if this is a lever on reducing future NHS drug costs on new developments for example) but in any event from a public policy point of view if this data isn't conjoined into local authority data in terms of service plans for dealing with an aging population, impacts of poverty on ill-health etc. then it's a missed opportunity.

Data is important for planning but in the wrong hands its more powerful than a nuclear bomb! This should be public intelligence data not a commercial opportunity to benefit the private sector driven out of an administrative process that the NHS is paying for!

In any event it needs to be future proofed - you can't go on given money to companies to strip out the data that could be automatically filtered if we invested in the NHS systems in the first place - which will be made far worse by further fragmenting the public sector with experiments on GP commissioning and hiving off services to any provider (boosting up the costs of then re-collecting the data which a centralised NHS should have as of right!).

The whole thing is insane!

Anna Rose