back to article Tory plan for MS, Google, others to hold NHS records floated

The Conservative Party has declined to comment on claims by the Times that under a future Tory government, UK health records "could be transferred to Google or Microsoft." This is described by the paper as "the first concrete proposal to emerge from the Tories' 'post-bureaucratic age' agenda." The proposal, however, is less …


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  1. sproot
    Big Brother

    Open Gov?

    I'd have thought "secrecy and lack of transparency" would be the most desirable bit. SSDD as it were.

  2. Mike Smith

    Utter, utter lunacy

    What a horrifying idea.

    Tory Blair wants to hand control of some of the most sensitive data in the country to to a foreign power. He must be completely off his fucking rocker. This sounds like Tony Blair's infatuation will America all over again.

    That is assuming he's actually thought it through, or even discussed the idea with anyone whose IT experience goes beyond typing '+paris +upskirt' into Google. Ah hae ma doots aboot that.

    Someone should tell this plank that a lot of the problems with the new NHS systems were caused by trying to adapt US software to meet UK demands.

    Shit, just where is this country headed? We need a toilet icon.

  3. Steven 23

    Saw this on the news this morning.

    Made me think when Cameron asked do you think your data's better off with the government?

    It's a good point.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tories ill advised

    The US is not the UK, and a lot in the UK don't like the US and how it does things.

    The US is pretty backward, and the UK following the US is pathetic. Putting private information into the hands of foreign public companies is nothing short of folly.

    It is looking like the real solution here is a complete opt out of the NHS and preventing them holding records on you. Now, comes the refund on the NI and the tax off the cigarettes and alcohol, as you won't be using their services so why pay for them.

  5. Dave Murray Silver badge

    Oh god no...

    The Tories clearly need to read this week's Fail & You column. What do they expect medical staff to do if a patient's records are unavailable for 6 hours when emergency treatment is required? And, who will they hold responsible if the patient dies? Larry? Sergey? Eric? Yeah, right.

    I find Google's apparent attempts to take over the US and UK governments very worrying. Not only are we going to be subject to expensive and ill-advised Government 2.0 schemes but doesn't it all smack of some Bond villan's evil master plan? Forget the evil Bill + Steve icons we need an evil Google icon.

  6. frank ly

    Just a Quick Check..

    ......UK health records "could be transferred to Google or Microsoft." .....

    ......replace the clunky NHS computer programme with the free-to-use Google Health". .....

    ......the chief executive of Google, sits on Mr Cameron’s economic advisory council......

    Am I the only one who is climbing the walls and screaming "NO, NO, NO!!!!!!" ?

    ......"....with people 'owning' their own data, including their health records."

    Oh, they do jokes as well :)

  7. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    I have no problem with this... long as the following criteria are met.

    1) Those who need to access the records, for my benefit, can do so.

    2) Everyone else *can't*. That includes Google's own staff.

    3) I can sue Google rigid for any breach of these conditions.

    ...but I really can't see anyone providing that level of service for free.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Way to go

    If my medial information is stored with Microsoft, I will probably end up going private.

  9. yossarianuk

    MS will not be getting my details.

    There is no way I will allow my medical details to do to MS, imagine all that data on such an insecure OS.

    I intend to write to Davey boy and let him know how I feel.

    At least if the did send MS my details I would have a good strong moral case for a violent struggle against the govt!

  10. A M Street

    A nightmare on the way

    It is just as well that there is an opt-out regarding your health records. There is no way that I will allow either Google or Microsoft within a mile of my personal data. I can just imagine Google dribbling at the thought of what use thay can put these record to. Personalised drug recommendations, perhaps? This makes the Labour party's mania for data collection look like Dixon of Dock Green. Don't be evil? A true nightmare.

  11. John Chadwick

    And you were worried about the government holding data.

    The likes of Google and Microsoft would not be trust worthy holders of any data, at the first request from the DoJ they would hand over UK data to the Murcan government, without qualm.

    Then there are the competition and long term economic issues of doing this, government data is currently held by a whole host of IT vendors and government departments which provide jobs in the UK, I can't see this being the case here. It could only be a competition between Google and Microsoft to store your data somewhere in a cloud, without adequate audit or accountability. You may complain about the way in which government handles your data, but you try getting it out of a secure system, it only gets released by human error. Not by bad IT.

    I would also love to see what CESG think of this idea, your health data is treated quite highly and aggregation rules make the whole database higher still. There is absolutely no way it would be in this kind of service, in fact if you think about it you could use all arguments against ID cards carrying this information against it being held by Google.

    You should also ask yourselves why Google and Microsoft would want to do this, $$$$, not altruism, they think they can make lots of money out of controlling your personal data, and once they have control of it, they have the keys to who accesses it, and they probably won't give you back control, probably couldn't even if you wanted them too, because they will be the only game in town.

    So think long and hard about this, this is probably a greater risk to your freedom and privacy than ever ID Cards are.

  12. Graham Bartlett

    I for one...

    ... welcome our new African overlords. Although a link-up between Google and the country of Cameroon seems to be something of a non-sequitur in the context of the article. Unless, heaven forfend, someone at El Reg got a little too happy on their "O" key.

  13. Stephen Channell

    Blue sky thinkers or stoned groupies

    It makes sense to look at the options all the time.. and I hope Andy Burnham is doing this with the gated reviews of the NHS IT programme, but there are two sided to be considered.. the IT cost and future benefits of the database spine.

    The UK is quite unique, because the health records are owned by the state, and not by any individual patient. Once the database is complete we’ll have the best global source for data-mining health outcomes.. right at the time that DNA knowledge provides the tools to properly analyse it. The mixed population of the UK and common ancestry with the US will be a hugely valuable resource.

    The US does have a much more integrated health system, but mainly geared to reducing the number of x-rays (fertility litigation) and scans (insurance claims), that are geared to the way the US pays for its health-care.. what effect President Obama’s plans will have are up for debate.

    .. so.. what’s it going to be : “blue-sky thinking” flogging our health info to the highest bidder; groupies high on dotcom vapours; political posturing or a genuine analysis...

  14. Ian Michael Gumby

    @ Mike Smith

    You wrote:

    "Tory Blair wants to hand control of some of the most sensitive data in the country to to a foreign power. He must be completely off his fucking rocker. This sounds like Tony Blair's infatuation will America all over again."

    Uhm since when did Google or Microsoft become a foreign country?

    I understand your point however neither is a foreign power although Google is getting their fingers in to the politico game here in the US.

    I do agree that for the British government to consider this proposal is shear lunacy.

    At best, Google claims that no 'human' will look at the records. This is a far cry from any form of a privacy statement. You don't need a human to review individual health records for their 'chocolate factory' from mining your health information and then reselling it to marketeers and such.

    Here in the states, Google has already positioned itself by saying since they are not a health care provider, they are not bound by HIPAA which protects patients' medical information. That alone is enough for me to sue any of my medical providers from ever putting my medical records on Google or Microsoft.

    Its a shame that the UK government is even floating any such idea. At least there was some hope for intelligent life here on earth...

  15. Stuart Clark 1

    National Government or International Google

    Hmmmm, this is a toughy!! Would I prefer someone whom I can vote in or out controlling my data or a foreign economic behmouth. I'm not sure I can decide.


  16. Anonymous Coward

    Hypocrites All

    Dear Tories (AKA the Law and Order Party),

    Please don't give any money to convicted criminals, particularly those who have yet to admit guilt and make reparations for their crimes. Can you guess who I'm talking about, Dave?



  17. MinionZero
    Big Brother

    MPs need to be sent a very clear message. I.e.

    MPs protect us or loose your jobs.

    The MPs are failing to protect us either through ignorance or greed. I don't care which, they need their jobs threatened to make them see the seriousness of this continuous failure to protect us all. The MPs are suppose to be protecting us. Its their job, if they can't do their job, then its time they lost their jobs and we will find people who can do their job. Their ignorance or greed is failing to protect us. Same argument against DPI companies like Phorm. Yet again MPs failing to protect us. Its horrific that companies are going to get access to even health records!.

    So its time a very clear message was sent to all MPs in all parties I.e. MPs protect us or loose your jobs.

    MPs if you want a full on outright public revolt against you all, then keep allowing companies to exploit us all and see how much public anger you can generate against yourselves.

    MPs Enough! ... MPs protect us or loose your jobs.

  18. G-HAM 2000


    As if Google's databases are going to be any less secure than the government's ones, or those of health insurance companies. Efforts should be made at stressing the importance of making sure a proper system of access, accountability and minimising the amount of personal information stored rather than people screaming about organising a riot if the government stores their health details on servers runing Windows (which they already do).

  19. Corrine

    This would be a horrible horrible idea...

    except the alternative is letting the British government handle it.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Safe in their hands...

    A slightly confused looking Cameron was babbling on about this on breakfast news this morning.

    One argument he made was that 'the government can't be trusted to look after your data' apparently , after all private companies *never* lose data or screw up.

    The idea that the individual should be responsible and have ownership of their medical records is a little worrying. The average idiot will be sharing this with all kinds of phishers, marketoons and other such bottom-feeders in return for percieved shiny rewards of some kind or another. That nice man in Lagos is currently looking after nana's records, and will return them for a small administrative fee.

  21. adam payne


    Why would I want my records on a private companies servers? Companies that aren't bound by patient confidentiality laws.

  22. Mike Smith

    @Ian Michael Gumby

    Fair enough - you're right; Google and Microsoft are not government entities.

    However, they ARE based in a foreign country and are answerable to a foreign government. They are not British companies, which means that the British government has next to no control over them. If the US government wants to view the data with or without the consent of Westminster, they'll go right ahead and force Google or Microsoft to play ball. After all, it's only some foreign data from... goddammit....the UK. That's near Englandshire right? Part of London? I just love those red buses y'all.

    (And before I'm accused of anti-Americanism, if the positions were reversed - the UK was holding all the US' medical records - we'd probably have exactly the same attitude to your data.)

    "At best, Google claims that no 'human' will look at the records."

    Oh, how reassuring that isn't.

    That's either an outright porkie, or (more likely) an admission that they don't give a monkey's about data quality and won't do anything to resolve the inevitable problems that will occur. That in itself should be enough to send anyone with half a brain running for cover. Medical data is far more important than a list of book preferences or suggestions for targeted ads, and when problems occur, as they always do, human intervention is essential.

  23. Elmer Phud

    You're all going private

    "We're thinking about how in government the architecture of technology needs to change, with people 'owning' their own data, including their health records.""

    This would be all the people then 'cos, as we all know, everyone has a computer - especially the elderly. And what happens when you can't find the data? You don't get care and they won't care - not thier fault.

    Ian Michael Gumby "At best, Google claims that no 'human' will look at the records. "

    You're right on that, "No human that we specifically employ will look at the records"

    SFX of hands being washed

  24. Anonymous Coward

    Am I the only one who thinks that this could be an improvement?

    Not because I think it's an especially good idea to pass all of our medical data to companies with a questionable record on privacy and who are answerable to a foreign government, but because it seems that recent past performance of the UK government on data protection is so disappointing that I don't think we would be any worse with either Microsoft or Google.

    Let's face it, the UK government has already tried to set up a national electronic patient data scheme, and has spectacularly failed. They have failed at a significant number of other large government IT projects. Given that if the Americans ask for our data, the government just gives it to them anyway, are we really worse off giving the data to a company which has significant experience in maintaining large amounts of data, trying hard not to give it to the government, and actually making the system work (mostly) seamlessly for its users?

    Whatever you may say about Windows itself, the above description applies almost equally to Microsoft and Google.

  25. A M Street
    Big Brother

    @mike smith

    I had to check the date that the first post was made.

    The reference to Tony Blair is what fooled me, I thought it was still 2007. The current PM is Gordon Brown, remember him? Not for much longer though, eh? Pity the icon looks a bit like Clem Atlee, now there was a good PM.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    MS and Google

    Presumably we're talking about the MS UK and Google UK. Although they belong to their parent companies they are separate UK entities and must abide by the laws of this country. Last I knew data for people within the UK can't be moved offshore for privacy reasons and to safeguard jobs. The only reason data will get lost is if it is hacked or someone leaves a laptop on a train station and it gets stolen. The data is with the UK government right now, do you think your local MP is the DBA? The data centres are managed by third parties - not the government itself. Your data is at risk regardless of who is in charge of the servers and the databases.

  27. Anonymous Coward

    Pass the Envelope

    So, the "party of business" chums up to corporations, just like Labour has done. The average Britard will, however, still vote for the corrupt "big two" because "the others ain't got no chance, innit?" And so the session at the trough continues, despite the media pantomime about expenses, salaries, second jobs, directorships, and all that.

    Fail and You? Fail and the Britards, more like!

  28. Anonymous Coward

    The perfect extension to Street View

    Would be if you could stop at any address and pull up all the personal information of those who lived there. Could that be where it's all going?

  29. OffBeatMammal

    Health Vault

    right now in the US I'm actually pretty impressed by the early steps Health Vault is taking.

    It's run by Microsoft and data is encrypted and sharing is under my control.

    provided ownership and location of storage of the data can be managed to protect the individuals in the system (a UK data center for instance)

    it allows me to nominate practitioners who can store data, add my own (eg upload from my pedometer) and share a view with someone who needs access.

    It's still got some work to go, and adapting to the UK would take some effort but I'd rather my tax is spent on that rather then reinventing the wheel three times and never deploying anything.

    Oh, and given the choise of trusting Google or Microsoft my money would be on the latter - follow the money...

    (mine is a lab coat)

  30. Adrian Midgley 1

    You already have that, mostly

    GPs are enough in the private sector for the advantages (if they exist) to apply.

    The majority of your health records are on your GP's computer system, which for most GPs remains under their physical control, although there are efforts to change that (they resulted in a loss of access to medical records in a chunk of Notts recently, I'm told.

    For a techie audience here I'd suggest the idea that research questioning of medical records should be done by sending a question to many small collections of data, rather than by collating all the data onto one - new - computer system centrally should be an easily understood one. There is even a syntax for doing it - HQL is a derivative of SQL, and MIQUEST interpreters for it are available in each GP system.

    Monitoring of access is best done by you each receiving an account listing all accesses to your records, the technology for that isn't that different from telephone bills, surely.

    There's a picture of a system I roughed out, many people could do a better one, I did it in a few minutes.

    <a href="" title="design for patient notification of record access by Adrian Midgley, on Flickr"><img src="" width="216" height="240" alt="design for patient notification of record access" /></a>


  31. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge


    I was worried about Cameron at first, but the more he says, the better I like him. However I'm not so sure about this...

    Still the advantage of being in opposition is the chance to think about policy in a different way, and part of the idea at least I do like, which is trying to hand control of people's own data back to them. Something this government is currently very bad at. It's at least worth thinking about, and BUPA and other UK healthcare companies are also in the running, so there should be plenty of UK options for storing your data as well as MS/Google.

    To be fair to the Conservatives, if they do believe that people need to have access to (and control of) their own data, then they've either got to be looking at building a whole new set of government databases with public access or control or allowing the private sector to do this. Both have their downsides, but given current government IT performance you can't blame them for being extremely wary of opting for the 'let's have a huge new government IT project' option. Especially as they're expecting to come to power running an almost £200 BILLION annual deficit!

    I'd guess that they've had to tear up most of the policy work they've done in the last 2-3 years as the realisation dawns that there's going to be no money to spend, if/when they do win the election.

    Being a new minister in June 2010 is not going to be a fun job! Most choices you end up making will be between bad and worse options, rather than in the fat times when there was plenty of money to waste in the hopes of achieving 'best'. So we probably ought to cut Cameron a bit of slack.

    Beer icon: Because spending the next 5 years permanently drunk sounds like the best option.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Ken Hagan

    That's all well and good, but if your records are viewable by you from anywhere you can be coerced into revealing them. For instance, you're after a job and they say here's a computer, show us yer medical records, you may find yourself in a quandary: job or no job?

    Ditto the police. And guess what, it's all legal, no third party has accessed your records, you've had a look at them of your own free will.

  33. G-HAM 2000


    But when will potential employers or police ever actually do this? Yeah, go ahead and scoff and call me naive, but when has this ever happened with regard to things we already have online or consider confidential? I've never been forced to login into my bank details, or hand over my credit card details or personal information to the police, a possible employer, or anyone. And guess what happens to the first company or police department that decides to do this? National scandal, and any information they may have gleaned from people's records will be deemed inadmissable for whatever they were trying to do (deem suitable for employment, or prosecution, etc.).

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