Wigan trade unionists speak out against NHS data sharing plan
A controversial transfer of GP records to a single central database is being opposed in the borough.
The Government claims the system will save lives and NHS Digital says it will only share the information for healthcare planning and research.
However, the idea has been met with a storm of criticism which has now led ministers to push the implementation date back from July 1 to the beginning of September.
Wigan Trades Council has now added its voice to the critics, accusing ministers of acting in an underhand way and not doing enough to tell people what they are doing.
The trade unionists also expressed doubt that the information being collected would be restricted to limited purposes and fears it will eventually be sold on commercially.
Wigan Trades Council said public concern and pressure had previously defeated similar ideas and urged residents to look at the details of the scheme and make a decision about whether or not they want to opt out.
A spokesperson for the trades council said: “This data is probably the most sensitive personal information on anyone, covering a lifetime’s medical and mental trauma together with sex, ethnicity, gender orientation and consultations.
“The staff that treated patients are also included.
“The last time the Government tried to do this was in 2014 when public pressure forced them to back off.
“Back then they wrote to people indicating what was planned.
“This time no letters to people have been sent out and millions of people will not know what the plan is.
“The Government has chosen to avoid consultation, avoid debate and avoid the democratic process.
“Wigan Trades Council is urging people to check on what the Government is up to and then making the choice of whether they want their records leaving at their GP’s surgery.
“NHS Digital has told us that the records are safe and will not be sold on.
“But they are safe now, so why the change?
“The reason is clear. This Government has always put profit before people and the data they are now grabbing will be used for that purpose. Despite all the assurances Wigan Trades Council believes that in time our medical records will be sold on.
“It’s what governments do.”
The NHS had previously called for a delay to the new data system while the British Medical Association and the Royal College of GPs had also expressed misgivings.
The Labour Party has also criticised the lack of consultation and the nature of the current plans for the data.
Speaking in the House of Commons this week, health minister Jo Churchill said ministers would “talk to doctors, patients and charities to strengthen the plan... and ensure data is accessed securely”.
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