Everyone 'to be research patient', says David Cameron


David Cameron has said he wants to make huge numbers of patient records in England available to the drugs industry

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Every NHS patient should be a "research patient" with their medical details "opened up" to private healthcare firms, says David Cameron.

The PM says it will mean all those who use the NHS in England will be helping in the fight against disease.

He hopes the result will be that patients get faster access to new treatments and Britain's life sciences sector will become a world leader.

But critics say commercial interests are being put ahead of patient privacy.

In a speech in London Mr Cameron said he would consult on changing the NHS constitution, which governs how the the health service is run, so that all patients' data is used for medical research unless they want to opt out.

'Anonymous data'

He also announced that three million patients with chronic illnesses like diabetes or heart conditions are to get hi-tech equipment to monitor their health at home.

The Prime Minister said it was "simply a waste" to have a health service like the NHS and not to use the medical data it generated.

"Let me be clear, this does not threaten privacy, it doesn't mean anyone can look at your health records, but it does mean using anonymous data to make new medical breakthroughs.

"The end result will be that every willing patient is a research patient and every time you use the NHS you are playing a part in the fight against disease at home and around the world."

The government believes that as a result Britain can become a world leader in the field of life sciences - an industry already worth £50bn a year and employing 160,000 people - because of the expertise within the NHS and its strong university-based research.

"The end-game is for the NHS to be working hand-in-glove with industry as the fastest adopter of new ideas in the world," he said.

Methods 'stink'

That would act as a "huge magnet to pull new innovations through, right along the food-chain - from the labs, to the boardrooms, to the hospital bed".

Start Quote

The innovation drugs pipeline is not flowing like it used to and the number of medicines in late stage development has declined”

End Quote Fergus Walsh BBC medical correspondent

The announcement came as the Prime Minister unveiled a range of measures designed to boost Britain's pharmaceutical industry, encourage medical breakthroughs and get life-saving drugs to patients faster.

The "tele-health" drive will allow vital health checks to be carried out and sent electronically to GPs without the need for patients to make an appointment or visit a clinic.

"We've trialled it, it's been a huge success, and now we're on a drive to roll this out nationwide," he said. "The aim - to improve three million lives over the next five years.

"This is going to make an extraordinary difference to people. Diabetics taking their blood sugar levels at home, and having them checked by a nurse.

"Heart disease patients having their blood pressure and pulse rate checked, without leaving their home."

Patient Concern said it had real worries about the proposal to make patients' medical data available to private firms as the information would include postcodes and age profiles which would be possible to trace back to the individuals concerned.

Joyce Robbins, Patient Concern: "The methods of doing this are not at all acceptable"

"The aim is laudable... but the methods, they stink frankly," Joyce Robins, the organisation's founder, said.

"Our records should not be passed around by the Department of Health as they see fit or sold to private companies without our permission."

Data should only be made available on the basis of patients' "informed consent", she added.

Labour has said it will not allow Mr Cameron to "throw away essential safeguards" in his desperation to develop a credible industrial strategy.

But the pharmaceutical industry said "robust" safeguards were already in place and it was impossible to trace back anonymised data to individuals.

"We need people to understand that the benefits for all of us - our children and people who have got illnesses - are absolutely essential when it comes to using health records for research," said Neil Patel, from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.

The NHS had a "unique resource" of medical records dating back to the 1940s, he added, and these had already been widely used in furthering understanding of conditions such as HIV and lung cancer.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 434.

    Sadly, the UK bureaucracy has an appalling record of incompetence with regard to data protection. Only recently they lost the details of every child benefit claimant. It will only be a months before someone is confronted with the shock that 'organisation 'X'' has their identity as well as their medical history. Great idea in theory, but an accident just waiting to happen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 433.

    Clearly those who are negating comments are either doing so just because they can or, if they really mean to do so, clearly aren't interested in any future developments in medicine that might help them or even save their lives.

    Anonymised data to further research is a good thing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 432.

    Superb idea. There is no reason that it cannot be done anonymously so that personal information such as d.o.b. and name are omitted. Data mining techniques can be used to analyse huge amounts of data that is collected on everyday appointments and procedures and pave the way for far quicker turnaround times on drug and surgery effectiveness.

  • rate this

    Comment number 431.

    As somebody who used to do front-line biomedical research in a top university (before becoming disillusioned and leaving) we had problems obtaining discarded tissues for temporary cell culture and had to get consent. Nobody cared as we were public sector. Now the government decides to bend over backwards to please private firms, even though the BEST RESEARCH IS STILL DONE BY THE PUBLIC SECTOR!

  • rate this

    Comment number 430.

    423 ibwa, Im sure private care companies have made some generous donations to MPs(Andrew Lansley/CareUK). So it wont be given away for free. Whether, we the tax payers benefit is another question.

  • rate this

    Comment number 429.

    They did something like this in Germany and in the German concentration camps under Hitler.

    Unless I have a say in who gets the information, and am paid a price that I set, my medical details must stay private.

    If this goes ahead they'll be experimenting on us next!

    Or are they already?

  • rate this

    Comment number 428.

    Care for people is different - maybe more efficient short term but more profit comes from cutting corners. Care for the elderly shows that."

    My partner worked 17 years in various care posts. You do not want to know what goes on in private homes - however expensive (state homes aren't perfect, but do try to follow the rules). The inspections are just as big a farce as ISO9xxx ones.

  • rate this

    Comment number 427.

    How utterly disgusting!

  • rate this

    Comment number 426.

    It looks like Labour and the Tories are both determined to mine as much information as they can from us and let every Tom, Dick and Harry have access to it. Why don't they just be done with it, force through a bill enabling us all to be micro-chipped at birth and monitored for life?

  • rate this

    Comment number 425.

    Great idea if anonymous. This will enable more epidemilogical research which will save torturing animals and provide safer drugs for humans. Animal testing permits unsafe drugs to be trialed on humans and surveying the population will enable more lifestyle related preventative advice to be given.

  • rate this

    Comment number 424.

    I totally object to having my confidential medical details used in this way. his would be an ehtical infringement of my beliefs as I am totally opposed to vivisection and experiments of animals. These pharmaceutical companies have no such scruples. Many of their drugs have numerous side effects. The way to good health is tackling the cause not symptoms preferably by prevention.

  • rate this

    Comment number 423.

    Are we to be compensated as big drugs companies rake in the fortunes or are we just a state freebie? After all we all pay for the NHS, surely we should gain in real terms from our collective? Information is a great source of wealth and should not be given for free.

  • rate this

    Comment number 422.

    Will the data be sold to the pharaceutical companies? It clearly has a commercial value. This is our data after all and we should get as much benefit from this plan as possible. If it's not being sold, it might be worth pondering the links between the govt. and the pharmaceutical companies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 421.

    The government do not want the individual to have the choice to opt out of this and they just give out information to whom they feel are appropriate, regardless of whose information they give out. This is unfair on the British public as it is our information, if the government give out my information I am considering seeking legal advice and will take it as far as possible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 420.

    Lupatria said "Whether it's beneficial or not I DO NOT want my information shared."

    This sound to me to be the typical type of knee jerk reaction people have. All they would know about you is "there was a patient who had a disease, and this happened to them...."

    If you're not willing to share that much, you deserve none of the benefits that research will bring. Grow up, you petulant child.

  • rate this

    Comment number 419.

    "The NHS isn't perfect, the private sector are good at some things why not use their experience and expertise to improve it?"

    Private is good at selling - customers don't come back if the goods/work aren't up to scratch coz they'll get no more money. Care for people is different - maybe more efficient short term but more profit comes from cutting corners. Care for the elderly shows that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 418.

    first tory policy i support! - provided you can opt out and its not left to the general idiots in nhs it departments to cleanse to data.

  • rate this

    Comment number 417.

    The NHS is safe with the Tory's. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA By By D.C

  • rate this

    Comment number 416.

    I just don't trust them anymore.

  • rate this

    Comment number 415.

    Short selective memories these Tories have. Remeber when the utilities, telecoms, energy etc.. companies were 'opened up' to private firms? Now they are exclusively owned by overseas companies and, we in the UK now subsidise their domestic markets by having to pay over the odds for gas, electicity, mobile phone, bank charges and so on. Why not 'open up' the UK defence to private firms?


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