NHSX, the new body behind the covid 19 tracing app,is planning a further IT revolution which will be a bonanza for multi national tech companies
Probably everybody remembers the fiasco under Labour to introduce a national computer system linking the whole of the NHS. The ten year programme which never worked properly was abandoned in 2011 after wasting some £10 billion of taxpayer’s money.
But now NHSX, the new body set up by the government in July 2019 without any Parliamentary approval and virtually no oversight outside the NHS, is planning a new national system to centralise NHS patient records.
Most of the press reports concentrated on the back story that the NHS was s in a digital mess and that a £8.4 billion programme under way to modernise the system had still not everything right- with 46 per cent of trusts relying on paper for patient records.
The real story was at the end of the report where the NAO raised a red flag about a plan to put everybody’s patient records in a cloud which has still not been fully worked out by NHSX.
It says NHSX is working on creating communication protocols known as Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) which would go through different layers so they could transfer patients’ data from an individual health trust or GP surgery to a cloud. This is similar to people transferring their own personal data and files on their computer or smart phone to a Google cloud.
A NAO spokesman said: “The use of APIs with a data layer, is at an early stage. It does not have a clear scope yet, so we are unable to comment on its implementation, much less how it affects the Covid-19 response. But we note that other parts of government found similar approaches to be difficult and expensive.”
The NAO also revealed that unlike the first failed computer system – which was paid out of general taxation – the new cloud service will come out of general day to day running costs – which means if it goes wrong the cash will be taken from patient services and given to tech multinationals to solve the problems.
More seriously how safe are your records when this happens. Already NHSX has had the embarrassment of computer magazine Wired discovering they had left future plans for the app – publicly accessible through Google Drive – by mistake.
Image how you will feel if your personal health records were hacked and sold on to commercial interests.Or some computer error released sensitive infoirmation. This plan needs to be thoroughly scrutinised before it goes ahead. Or it will be a waste of money and a possible security risk to your sensitive personal information.