NHS Uploads Private Medical Records to Google

Jonathan R. Clauson

Private medical records from England's National Health Service have been uploaded in their entirety to Google BigQuery servers adding to the ailments afflicting the 65 year old government health care service.

The NHS was originally founded in 1948 with a creed of service, "from each according to their ability as each according to their needs." Under this banner, the service operates free of charge for all legal British residents with a general practitioner, or GP, as the first contact point for any and all medial issues. The service is funded completely by public taxation, though no specific tax or levee is made for the service.

The service has been plagued by numerous controversies and scandals with waiting lists being among the most common complaint. Patients with non-essential surgeries can find themselves waiting upwards of two years as more serious surgeries will be put in front of them. The Telegraph also reported on the decisions that lead to the infamous "death panel" controversy. For the NHS, what began as a way to ease the passing of terminally ill cancer patients by removing food, fluids and medications in favor of sedation was passed onto over 300 hospitals for conditions that government watchdog groups said did not call for and end of life procedure.

The latest issue is what the National Health Service has done to private medical records by uploading them to Google BigQuery servers.

— Sarah Wollaston MP (@drwollastonmp) March 3, 2014

PA Consulting, a private consulting tech firm that operates in both the public and private sector had secured the HES data from National Health Service hospitals and uploaded the entire database to the Google servers. According to the PDF released from the consulting firm the results were better than expected.

"Within two weeks of starting to use the Google tools we were able to produce interactive maps directly from HES queries in seconds."

Even with NHS private medical records scrubbed in this way, the centre's public assurance director Mark Davies told The Guardian that there is still a "small chance" that insurers and other health companies could match the scrubbed data with their own internal data and be able to determine who people are. If someone wants to opt-out they need only inform their GP and a "note" will be placed on their medical records to not include them in the NHS database. A massive mailing to the UK people also has been sent out from the NHS detailing the information about the selling of information for the betterment of health care.

The information available to purchase will include the person's NHS number (the UK equivalent of the US Social Security Number), date of birth, postcode, ethnicity and gender.

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