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UK doctors soon forced to hand over private patient data to government

Wednesday, February 06, 2013 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: patient data, medical surveillance, government

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(NaturalNews) It used to be that a patient's relationship with his doctor was a private affair. But in the new world of government-run healthcare, this doctor-patient confidentiality arrangement is adding a new member to the mix -- Big Brother. As reported by the U.K.'s Daily Mail, doctors throughout Great Britain will more than likely soon be required to hand over personal information about their patients to the government on demand, including private medical records and even personal eating habits.

Dubbed by some as the "biggest data grab in NHS history," NHS referring to the U.K.'s National Health Service, the scheme is part of a nationwide initiative called "Everyone Counts," which contends to increase the availability of patient data for the purpose of improving the quality of healthcare. But privacy advocates say it will reveal too much information to the government about the personal lives of citizens, including things like weight, cholesterol levels, alcohol consumption rates, and smoking status, among other details.

"Under these proposals, medical confidentiality is, in effect, dead and there is currently nobody standing in the way," explained Nick Pickles from the privacy advocacy group Big Brother Watch to the Daily Mail. "It is unbelievable how little the public is being told about what is going on, while GPs (general practitioners) are being strong-armed into handing over details about their patients and to not make a fuss."

British government to use healthcare system as cover to spy on citizens

According to reports, patient data will be compiled and stored in a single, national database accessible by Great Britain's ruling class. Officials insist personal information about patients will remain anonymous in the system, and be promptly deleted upon analysis, but privacy watchdogs are not buying this unlikely claim. Since GPs will be required to submit monthly updates about their patients to the national database, many see the new requirement as a drastic invasion of privacy.

Of particular concern is the fact that government officials will be permitted, under the new guidelines, to request specific information about individual patients as they see fit, including information about why they were referred to a certain specialist, for instance, or why they were prescribed a specific drug. The British government claims this massive data mining initiative will help evaluate demand for services and ultimately improve treatment.

In the process; however, the government will also have the option to sell patient data to third parties without their permission. Patients will also be prohibited from opting out of the program, which means they will have no choice but to sacrifice their medical confidentiality in order to receive state-sanctioned medical care. And with Obamacare quickly taking shape in the U.S., Americans can expect the same type of privacy invasion in their country in the coming months and years.

"Not only has the public not been told what is going on, none of us has been asked to give our permission for this to happen," added Pickles.

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