Tue 23rd Apr, 2019

Are you worried about the NHS app too?

On the back of ICO breaches (7/4/19) from the Home Office, it does make one concerned about how much data the government is gathering about you and how it could be used. The new NHS App is touted, as the front door for citizens to access primary care but is this just a backdoor to yours and my health data.

The NHS app will give government the ability to match all your requests for primary care against your other tax and finance records. The first obvious question is whether this will be used to check entitlement to care. If the government wanted to build a system to check if you have paid NI or Tax, they could do that today, link it with the NHS App and then block access to GP appointments. It’s not on their current roadmap but when The Independent (20/12/16) reported a loss of nearly £30m from overseas patients and unpaid bills, the motivation will be obvious. Taking the example further, the App linked to tax data could be used to look at who contributes to the economy the most and make decisions on care based on your value.

Thinking about travel, do you want the government to know what travel vaccinations you had and where you plan to visit. Do you want central government access to the results from the STD clinic. Do you want government officials to be able to access your mental health records or know that you need an appointment for depression or anxiety? How would you feel as an NHS employee if colleagues would have access to information so they know that you struggle with eating disorder information you gave from within the NHS App.

Even without linking government systems, the NHS App will be able to access your records (it’s in their privacy policy) and look at whether you smoke, how much you drink and then possibly make decisions on access to care based on those factors.  Would smokers be disadvantaged in accessing care, would CCGS use the data to manage waiting lists, would any conversation, digital or face to face with your doctor ever be private again?.

On a national basis, the App will be able to see what is being prescribed and make bulk changes to prescriptions E.g generics. Central government will have the ability to over-ride this data based on who can give them the cheapest deal or use drug supply as a bargaining tool in trade negotiations.

The NHS App privacy terms also states about your personal health data that ‘In some circumstances we use services who may process (your) data outside of Europe’, do they mean Google, large drug companies, insurance companies or some other party who would be willing to pay for your information? Is this the way the NHS is going to be funded by selling your information?

Government should be a body of regulation not a provider of technology that they could in the future use for nefarious purposes.

Governments don’t make TV programmes, they regulate them.

They don’t make movies, they Censor them.

They didn’t build your banking app, they set standards.

So why is the government building an NHS app when the potential privacy and personal issues are so apparent?

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash