Headlines: February 4th, 2008

More doubts have been raised over plans for a centralised National Health Service database with nine out of ten doctors in a poll saying they had no confidence in the government’s ability to safeguard patient data. The poll by ‘BMA News’ shows doctors doubts have been fuelled by recent cases of data going astray.

The Doctors Decide poll found 93 per cent of respondents felt they were not in a position to assure patients that their data would be safe and eight out of ten said they would not want their surgery data stored on the national NHS ‘spine’.

‘BMA News’ said a series of recent high-profile data losses, including Revenue and Customs computer discs with the details of 25 million child benefit claimants being lost and security breaches during last year’s online training recruitment for junior doctors, had left many practitioners sceptical about safety.

One doctor, trainee cardiologist Dr Sally Simmons from Wiltshire, was involved in the security breaches in medical training applications. Her personal details became publicly available. “I have received no apology from the Department of Health despite writing to the former health secretary. I was also affected by the loss of the two child benefit CDs with my bank details on them. Not surprisingly, I have no faith in any form of IT security that this government proposes,” she said.

By contrast, Berkshire GP and consultant in family planning Dr Meg Thomas thought a national database would help with continuity of care and communication between primary and secondary care.“There may be a risk but paper records are also going astray. We need to join the 21st century and quick,” she said.