Government Health Care

by Alec Torres
A British doctor is bullied for protecting patients.

Great Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) is threatening to shut down the practice of a general practitioner because he isn’t readily volunteering his patients’ private medical records to a new government data collection program.

Dr. Gordon Gancz decided to opt all of his patients out of the “caredata” medical-information scheme due to privacy concerns and worries about the security of his patients’ personal information. With the new data-collection system, the government hopes to create an accurate appraisal of the quality of health and social care across England, targeting areas that are underperforming.

The NHS promises to delink any identifying information from the records collected and keep the anonymous information controlled by strict confidentiality rules.

However, critics are worried that the system will be open to hackers or that information might be sold to private health-insurance companies and drug manufacturers.

The program, which begins in March, allows individuals to opt out and keep their information private by informing their general practitioner of their decision, but Gancz does not think patients have been properly informed about their ability to opt out. “I believe research is important — medicine is all about research — but patients should positively want to release their information,” Gancz told the Daily Mail. “In many cases patients will not even know that this scheme is about to start so they will not have an opportunity to opt out, should they so wish.”

Worried about the program, Gancz decided to automatically opt all of his patients out of the system, allowing them to opt in if they so choose. Now, he told the Mail, the NHS is threatening to shut down his practice. The government-run health service has also sent him a “threatening” e-mail telling him to remove a statement on his website informing his patients that he was “concerned” about the data-extraction scheme and would only opt his patients into the program upon request. The NHS allegedly told Gancz that by not automatically opting in his patients he would be “in breach of his contract.”

Gancz has accused the NHS of trying to “bulldoze” doctors with “blatant bullying.” As of yet, the fate of his practice has not been determined.

— Alec Torres is a William F. Buckley Fellow at the National Review Institute.