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Saturday 24th August 2019

Private firms buy identifiable data on NHS patients

20th May 2013

Private health firms, including Bupa, can now pay a fee to identify potentially millions of patients and then access their health records, detailing intimate medical histories, under a new national arrangement in the NHS.

Private insurer Bupa is one of four private firms that has been approved to access England's "sensitive or identifiable" patient data, housed centrally by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).

The records, which include sensitive information about hospital visits, such as a mother's history of still births, patients' psychiatric treatment and critical care stays, allow individuals to be identified by use of postcode, gender and age as well as their socioeconomic status.

The "indicative fee" for a full set of 20 years' inpatient data is about £8,000 including £140 to make the records identifiable.

The initiative is part of Cameron’s plans to increase collaboration between the health service and the life sciences industry announced back in December 2011. Cameron said that he wanted the NHS to be "working hand-in-glove with industry as the fastest adopter of new ideas in the world" and that collaboration will not only benefit patients, but also the £50bn life sciences industry.

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