Students, watch out – the NHS’ online data gathering scheme is sneaky

Students may be out of touch with the outside world, but that doesn’t make it fair to exploit us, says Bryony Latham


So apparently the NHS is planning to put all our health information on an online database so that our records are easier to share and perhaps even sell to private companies… after all, everything has a price. Unless you opt out of the scheme in time, you will be chained into the database where commercial interests will probably at some point attempt to exploit you.

This has been niggling at me for a few weeks. Like a lot of students I am easily distracted by other important aspects of life such as remembering to watch TOWIE twice a week, thinking about what to cook for dinner and perhaps even considering to start the mound of reading for my essay due in at the end of March. Inevitably, opting out of this NHS scheme is not one of my top priorities. 

Opting out is easily forgettable.

Opting out is easily forgettable.

Not many students are aware of this scheme. It doesn’t really help that swe are renowned for having no clue about the outside world. Not unless you paid for your TV license specifically to watch the daily news at 10pm instead of guiltily enjoying the awful predicaments displayed on Jeremy Kyle in the middle of the day.

Even if you do still watch the news religiously in true dinosaur age fashion (well done), the whole scheme somehow seems to have escaped a large amount of publicity. Perhaps it just got overlooked? Or maybe it’s just easier not to inform the student population that probably won’t understand the scheme anyway…

The NHS’ original plan was to pop leaflets through our letterboxes in a half arsed attempt to demonstrate common decency and let us know that students’ personal data was going to be harvested on a massively scaled database. Let’s not forget this is online – not the most secure of locations. But somehow those leaflets have been misplaced.

I can only hope that they use some kind of puzzle protected password like the HSBC fob to protect the abundance of personal and, not to mention, private data… but what’s the point? It will no doubt get passed on to a powerful corporation that may feign interest in public welfare, only to personalize their service to the point where they are invading your private life.

We’re not being told about this, and we should be. The majority of students are too engrossed in reality TV, hangovers and finding enough money to pay for food to worry about the bigger issues, so we are becoming less and less involved in these serious problems which will affect us all. Before you know it, your grazed knee from a stumble outside Ocean and a cut head from walking into a lamp-post are going to come back and haunt you.

My advice to you: if you happen to be going on the ski trip in Easter (and somehow haven’t made your way to the end of your overdraft), don’t be having an accident unless you’re happy with annoying phone calls by insurance companies once this information has gone online.

Happy memories of your ski trip will soon be tarnished...

Happy memories of your ski trip will soon be tarnished…

Or don’t be surprised when you’re eventually minted enough to afford life insurance (basically guaranteed if you go to UoN), the price is sky-high due to a few injuries that you vaguely remember because you were hammered on your return down the slopes from après.

Don't give up all hope, there's still time to opt out!

Don’t give up all hope, there’s still time to opt out!

Contemplating opting out of the scheme? Go ahead and try to find out more information, there’s not much from the NHS. All you have to do is have a word with your GP or send them a letter – hold on, since when does anyone remember the name of their GP?

Don’t worry yourself too much though, according to the Daily Mail some GPs have actually opted all their thousands of patients out of the scheme already due to their fierce distrust in it. So maybe you’re lucky and your GP has taken initiative for you…