Big Brother Watch has been a consistent opponent of the government's attempts to introduce what a major national newspaper has termed a "big brother database" storing the medical records of every patient in the United Kingdom. Aside from being hugely costly to implement, such a system would be both intrusive and open to abuse at the hands of unscrupulous individuals.
As a BBW research paper published in April showed, private patient records are already widely accessible by more than 100,000 non-medical personnel, often without appropriate background checks.
The announcement today that the system is going to be scaled back to include "only patients' most basic information" such as allergies and possible adverse reactions to drugs should therefore be welcomed - but only partially.
While the Department of Health have confirmed that those being added to the database in the coming months will receive an 'opt out' form exempting them from the scheme, the records of more than two million people have already been uploaded - in many cases without a full explanation having been offered to them as how to opt-out of the service.
The Department for Health and National Health Service bodies must do all they can to right this wrong. Members of the public have an absolute right to confidentiality when it comes to their personal medical records.