NHS Patient Data

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:00 pm on 25th March 2014.

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Photo of Barbara Keeley Barbara Keeley Labour, Worsley and Eccles South 4:00 pm, 25th March 2014

I am pleased to speak in this debate with you in the Chair, Ms Dorries. Other Members may not know that we made our maiden speeches together, so we have always been inextricably tied in that way.

I am raising issues today because I want the Minister, NHS England and the Health and Social Care Information Centre to appreciate some of the real concerns about past and current uses of NHS patient data. I will talk about concerns about a lack of transparency in decision making, the commercial use of patient data and the lack of consent for that use.

The chair of the HSCIC talked last week about the organisation’s having an “innocent lack of transparency”. That was an inappropriate description of an organisation that is causing serious concern about its handling of NHS patient data. A lack of transparency cannot be tolerated in the part of the NHS that is trusted with safeguarding patient data and I do not accept the description of “innocent” for that lack of transparency.

At a recent meeting of the Select Committee on Health, Members asked questions about decision making on data releases from the NHS Information Centre. The panel members, who included the Minister, were asked how many of the key decision makers from the NHS Information Centre, which released patient data to insurance actuaries, had later become decision makers in the HSCIC. Max Jones, director of information and data services, said:

“The executive directors of the HSCIC with responsibility for this area were not part of the old information centre.”

When asked again whether the individuals who made the decision on transferring data to insurance actuaries became decision makers in HSCIC, he replied that

“the very senior management in the HSCIC is not the same as very senior management that was in the” information centre.

The Minister has recently given me an answer to a written question that directly contradicts that and I am concerned about that. I asked him about the numbers and levels of staff who had transferred to the HSCIC from the NHS Information Centre. His answer stated that, of the 11 members from the management board of the HSCIC:

“Three of the non-executive directors and two of the executive directors were previously members of the NHS Information Centre management board. One of the executive members is graded as a very senior manager post and the other transferred as a senior doctor.”—[Hansard, 17 March 2014; Vol. 577, c. 457W.]

Given that that directly contradicts Max Jones’s answers to the Select Committee, will the Minister ask Max Jones why he gave those incorrect answers?

Dr Mark Davies, one of the senior executive directors, joined the NHS Information Centre in 2008 and transferred to the HSCIC when that was established. Indeed, an article last August described how Dr Davies sits in the exact same office in Leeds that he occupied when the HSCIC was the NHS Information Centre. He is the director of clinical and public assurance—a post that, surprisingly, is being made redundant this month. Will the Minister tell us why a senior post on public assurance is judged to be redundant, given the lack of public confidence in the plan for care.data and the many questions being raised by me and others about commercial uses of patient data?