Data leak fears 'holding back' health services

Health services are being held back by exaggerated fears about data leaks, a Labour peer has warned.

Lord David Lipsey told a fringe meeting at the Labour conference in Manchester on Monday that the government should make a strong defence of the advantages IT developments can deliver.

‘Ministers should stand up and say that nobody’s really endangered by the loss of this data, and it’s massively improved public services, so we should all shut up.

‘Unfortunately,’ he added, ‘we are a rather private nation and we are governed by the Daily Mail and Daily Express.’

Lord Lipsey argued that the information sharing is the ‘single thing that would most improve standards’ in the health service.

But he said that the NHS was holding back because of fears of bad headlines, citing the fact that his own GP in Wales has been warned off email consultations because of the risk of leaks.

He called for stronger freedom of information laws, and an independent evaluation of whether the Information Commissioner was doing more harm than good.

‘He’s done much good work in making information available,’ he said. ‘But he’s too focused on individual sensitivities and not cognisant enough of the benefits of sharing.’

Lord Lipsey’s concerns were echoed by other speakers.

Communications analyst MT Rainey said she was ‘concerned that the tail of paranoia is wagging the dog of opportunity’.

‘I think people are so worried about the downsides because they haven't been inspired enough about the possibilities,’ she said.

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