Some time ago I complained to the Office of the Information Commissioner (the people responsible for enforcing the Data Protection Act), about Cameron’s plans to release NHS records to private companies.
This is their reply:-
14 January 2012
Case Reference Number ENQ0427003
Dear Mr Graves
Thank you for your email dated 6 December 2011 setting out your concerns about recent government proposals to share certain medical data with private companies.
I apologise for the lengthy delay in responding to you; we have been handling a high volume of correspondence and casework which has unfortunately meant we have been unable to respond as promptly as we would like.
We are aware of the recent press and media coverage of these proposals. It is our understanding that any information passed to private companies for research purposes will be de-personalised by the NHS prior to being passed on.
Where information has been de-personalised (that is, the information in itself does not identify specific individuals) then that information will not be ‘personal data’ for the purposes of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). This means that there would be no issue for this office to address under the DPA.
I note that you wish to lodge your objection to these proposals. The Information Commissioner’s role is to oversee certain legislation including the DPA, which may also require the Commissioner to provide guidance to Parliament or to government bodies. The Commissioner cannot, however, lobby the government or Parliament on behalf of individuals or organisations. The best route for you to express your concerns and/or register your objections to these proposals would be via your local MP or by contacting the Minister responsible for overseeing the NHS.
I am sorry that we were unable to be of further assistance on this occasion, but I hope this information has been helpful.
Frankly, I don’t care that the material is depersonalised (which would be a massive undertaking, cost a fortune, and might not actually happen – and “understanding” is NOT a guarantee), it’s still a large part of my life – and yours too if you are chronically sick – and I still think that it’s highly improper for this sensitive material to be released at all.
There does, though, seem to be bugger all we can do about it, but perhaps if we complain en mass, someone will sit up and take notice – this is the email address email@example.com