Richard Granger, director general of the National Programme for IT, has sought to allay security fears citizens may have about the computerisation of many familiar NHS services.
Speaking at the Government Computing conference in London, Granger said that the NHS is on the cusp of introducing electronic referrals, and electronic care records will be going live soon.
Ideally, these changes will mean all data on a patient will be held centrally, with abstracts held locally. It will also mean referrals to external consultants will be accessible to patients themselves, who will be able to go online and change appointments if they don't suit them, for example.
What this will also mean, however, is a single point of access to patient data, making it much more vulnerable to unofficial access. It is this worry that Granger wants to address. Unfortunately, he seemed reluctant to provide delegates with details about how the information would be secured.
He instead went on the attack, saying that people who have concerns about the security of their records should consider how the system works at the moment, and then decide if the new system is better.
"The system is NOT secure at the moment," he said. "There is lots of private personal information flowing around by phone, by post, by fax, and even by post-it note. Electronic records will be more secure, and more accurate."
This may be so, but one could argue that replacing one insecure system with another, expensive, insecure system, is not the kind of progress the NHS needs. Granger's argument may seem to address the issue, but in fact it merely sidesteps it.
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