The Tories are facing court over their NHS ‘data grab’

Matt Hancock looking angry over the NHS data grab court action
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A group has launched a legal challenge to the Tory government’s so-called “NHS data grab“. It comes as the medical records of the entire population of England are set to go on a central database in a matter of weeks. And as The Canary previously reported, the Tories are looking to sell your data to the highest bidder. But you, and the legal challenge, could stop them.

Flogging our medical records, Tory-style

As we previously wrote, the Tories flogging off our medical data isn’t new. Previously, a single government body was doing it, and the government claimed that it was all legal. It also said that people’s info was anonymous, but some campaign groups disagreed. The latest scandal broke when Byline Times revealed that the government is once again looking to sell our medical records.

Phil Booth wrote for Byline Times that:

from 1 July, NHS Digital has announced that “data may be shared from the GP medical records about… any living patient registered at a GP practice in England when the collection started”.

NHS Digital… will be able to take the following from GPs’ records: “Data about diagnoses, symptoms, observations, test results, medications, allergies, immunisations, referrals, recalls and appointments, including information about physical, mental and sexual health.” This will also include data about “staff who have treated patients”, and data “on sex, ethnicity and sexual orientation”, as well as other sensitive data.

Enter Big Pharma

NHS Digital states that some organisations may “need access” to your data. It says “these include but may not be limited to” several government bodies, including Public Health England. But crucially, NHS Digital also says it can give access to your data to:

research organisations, including universities, charities, clinical research organisations that run clinical trials and pharmaceutical companies

Read on...

The public has until 23 June to opt out. You can find out how to do that here. And now, a group of organisations is taking action.

A legal challenge?

A coalition of five groups and an MP have begun legal proceedings against the government. They are:

  • Just Treatment.
  • Doctors’ Association UK.
  • The Citizens.
  • openDemocracy.
  • The National Pensioners Convention.
  • David Davis MP.

The coalition says that:

we have less than three weeks to keep our medical data safe.

Foxglove Solicitors is acting on its behalf. The coalition doesn’t seem confident that the government will drop the 23 June opt-out deadline. So, it’s started legal proceedings.


As it wrote:

On 3 June Just Treatment, Doctors’ Association UK, the Citizens, openDemocracy, the National Pensioners Convention and David Davis MP sent a legal letter (a letter before claim) to the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS Digital. The legal letter says that rushing such a major change through with no transparency or debate violates patient trust, and doing so without seeking patient consent is unlawful. The case asks for a halt to the GP data grab with an injunction, and to rethink and seek meaningful patient consent.

But the coalition needs funding for the case and is looking to raise £40k to cover legal costs. You can view and donate to its crowdfunder here. As it said:

Our legal team work on ‘conditional fee agreements’. That means they only recover their costs from the other side if we win. But if we lose in court, we could have to pay the other side’s costs. The claimants in this are asking the court for a “Cost Capping Order”. If the court grants that it means that there would be a limit on the amount the coalition can be forced to pay in the event it loses. To make this case possible we need to raise as much as possible.

The coalition has also started a petition which you can read and sign here.

Fighting for all of us

The Citizens has created a video explainer of the situation:

The legal case is crucial. Many people won’t be aware of the Tories’ NHS data grab, and therefore won’t know that they can opt out. By stopping this in its tracks, the coalition will be winning for every person in the UK – except the Tories, of course.

Featured image via Sky News – YouTube

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