Time to opt out


I’m not quite sure when we lost the right to privacy in the UK, but I have recently started to wonder what details on my private life I can protect from the State’s intrusion. The new NHS database is the latest violation of our rights to privacy, taking away our control over our medical records. Call me paranoid, but I find the idea of over a million NHS employees and central government bureaucrats accessing information about my medical history quite frightening.

Much fuss has been made in the media over the new NHS Database, which is costing an estimated £12.4billion to place everyone’s medical records on a central database (expected to be completed by 2015). Suffice to say, there doesn’t seem to be much sound reasoning behind such a colossal and costly project. The NHS claims that the database is necessary to replace the paper files currently held in GPs offices, allowing hospital and out of hours staff to access medical records in emergency situations. This may sound reasonable but the NHS has managed for years without this need for centralised information and there seems little evidence to support the argument that the public’s health is being compromised by having our medical records kept at the GP’s.

They also try to justify this nightmare database by claiming it would cut down on lost records and test results. Again this seems unjustified with a spokesman for the Department of Health admitted this was not a major problem under the current system. The whole thing seems a complete farce – for the sake of modernising the NHS and using the latest technology, our private medical records are being placed (at a huge cost) on a database particularly vulnerable to abuse and errors. There are already rumours that such information is being sold on the black market by private investigators, and I find it disconcerting that the State will have records documenting whenever one has visited psychiatrists, alcohol-dependency clinics or GUM clinics. Surely this information should be shared only between the patient and GP and not automatically uploaded onto a database accessed by over a million NHS employees.

So, thanks to The Big Opt Out and all the fuss in the media, I’m opting out of the NHS database. Our privacy in the UK has slowly been eroded by the vast amount of information that is being held on us and I can only hope that Cameron’s promise to return to traditional civil liberties will include a reining back on the database society we live in.