Do not trust any government, says MP in medical data row

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AN outspoken Yorkshire MP has told voters not to “trust” any government in an extraordinary attack after ministers were forced to delay plans to roll out a controversial database containing the confidential medical records of patients.

Labour’s George Mudie, a leading member of the Treasury Select Committee which has been holding Britain’s banks to account, also questioned whether any data could be safely stored by computers after a succession of security breaches – including the Parliamentary expenses scandal.

“I have been in the House of Commons for 20 years, and I do not trust Governments. I would not tell people to trust Governments, whether Labour, Liberal or Conservative,” said Mr Mudie who will step down from his Leeds East seat at the next election.

“I would say to people, “Put your trust in God if you wish, but don’t trust Governments”, because the state and Governments have a life and interest of their own.

“We all know, as politicians, what happened to data that were secure beyond any reason – our expenses. How secure was that database? What damage it did! It killed people and imprisoned people, and it brought us down to below journalists, estate agents and perhaps lawyers in the esteem of the public. That was a “secure” database. Is there such a thing as a secure database? That is one of the arguments, but I am still talking about trusting the Government. Do not trust the Government.”

Mr Mudie led a Commons debate 10 days ago which led to the Department of Health putting its plans on hold, even though Ministers contend that the pooling of medical information will make it easier for them to identify lifestyle changes and form future policy.

However the one-time Leeds Council leader remains deeply critical of the Government for distributing publicity material about the scheme through the post as “junk mail” – and that insufficient attention has been given to those patients who may want their details excluded.

He added: “Will the patient database be more secure than Barclays database, from which the financial records of 27,000 customers were stolen? The computer world says there is a constant fight to keep databases safe from eastern European countries and there are even cyber attacks in China. But we are being asked to accept that the NHS database will be so secure that it will never be breached.

“How do the Government expect to obtain trust if they do not accept that there are limits to security, and that steps should be taken to protect such sensitive data? It is fine for the medical profession to have access to the actual records, because that is what it is interested in, but it is not fine to be able identify individuals.

“How many people live in one postcode? It could cover a whole street, or a couple of streets. If the age, gender and date of birth were available, it would not be difficult to identify an individual. That is what we are facing.

“I simply say that trust is being lost daily. What we do in the next six months is important.”