DNA database

The DNA of every man, woman and child in England will be profiled and stored under large-scale databases, according to a recent government announcement.

 Under the project, every patient of the NHS will have the details of their genes, infections, past illnesses, sequenced over the next 5 years.

This means that the government, along with medical authorities and other third parties will be able to access the personal health records of every patient and use that information to their advantage.

The project will be run by  Genomics England, and will manage contracts for specialist UK-based companies, universities and hospitals to supply services on sequencing, data linkage and analysis.

 The government claims that the database will allow them to gain a better understanding of disease and offer a more “personal” service to patients.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “The UK aims to become the first country to introduce this technology in its mainstream health system.

“Genomics England will provide the investment and leadership needed to dramatically increase the use of this technology and drive costs down.”

In September 2011, a CD containing the health records of over a million people was “lost” by NHS Kent and Medway.

This occurred after the scandal in 2007, where nine NHS trusts “lost” the records of hundreds of thousands of adults and children. This included names, addresses and health details. It was also revealed that millions of records went missing in 2009, in a series of grave data security leaks.

Earlier this year, changes made to the NHS constitution means that patients will lose important privacy controls over their information. Under the new proposals, patients will not have the power to veto records being used for reasons unrelated to their own treatment. Instead they can only ‘request’ that the data is not passed on. It also allows information which could identify a patient to be used without them having the chance to object.

GPs will be forced to hand over significant amounts of information from their patient databases including cholesterol levels, body mass index, pulse rate, family health history, alcohol consumption and smoking status.

The records of every physical and mental illness would also be gathered.
In addition, GPs could be made to pass on patients’ dates of birth, postcodes and NHS numbers which will be updated regularly on the database.

In effect, it would spell the end of patient-doctor confidentiality. Meanwhile, in America the same proposals are being adopted under Obama’s healthcare plans.

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