A survey showing that confidential NHS patient records are being lost and inappropriately shared an average of six times a day must sound alarm bells for future online plans, said MEP Louise Bours.

“The government is pushing ahead with plans for the NHS to use more new IT to try to save billions of pounds but, like many NHS changes, it is being rushed through, not thought through.

“Obviously using new information technology to help the service run smoothly and benefit patients is to be welcomed in theory but there must be proper safeguards and today’s report by Big Brother Watch highlights that need,” said Ms Bours, UKIP Health spokesman.

Research by the privacy group found there had been 7,255 breaches of data protection rules in three years, including at least 50 cases of information being posted on social media and 143 when private records were inappropriately accessed ‘for personal reasons.’

“Meanwhile health secretary Jeremy Hunt is advocating more new technology and greater access to records but I am concerned about patient confidentiality and whether in fact the schemes will save the £22b claimed,” said Ms Bours, North West MEP.

“At present up and down the country many computer systems used by GP practices, hospitals, social care, community nursing and mental health are not compatible and how many billions will have to be spent remedying that situation just to start with?

“There must be proper safeguards in place and greater penalties for those who abuse the system. People are rightly concerned about their care data being held  centrally with the potential for both mistakes and access by private bodies,” she added.

“NHS England wants to become “a digital pioneer” but we all know while pioneering is bold it is rarely straightforward. Let them not forget that patients  must always be at the heart of our health service. They want care and compassion from doctors and nurses and the best treatment available more than anything.”

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