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Tech website The Register is reporting that the DWP are advertising for a company to develop software “that allows it to automate slurps of medical data on claimants”.

Ten companies are bidding for the work, which has already involved a trial using amedical records broker’ and 10 GP surgeries. The DWP has failed to give assurances that the data, stored using Health Amazon Web Services, will not be shared elsewhere and fears have already been voiced that the new system may harm patients.

The Register has highlighted an advert placed on the government digital marketplace asking companies to bid for a project to develop an ‘NHS / DWP data-sharing technical proof of concept’.

The DWP say they want to automate “routine requests for medical information (i.e. GP details, conditions diagnosed, hospital stays etc) and providing a digital route for ad-hoc requests (how the health condition affects the patient on a day-to day basis).”

The DWP’s advert explains that by working with a ‘medical records broker’ they have learnt that claimants and GPs lack understanding of what information is required, or don’t have access to it:

“ Citizens don't always have / understand the information needed to process their applications - we have to verify their responses with medical professionals - easier if we could access directly (with appropriate consent)”

“GPs don't always have / understand information about citizens' 'functional capability', therefore route needed to more relevant medical professionals, such as secondary and community care providers.”

It would also be much cheaper and quicker to access patient records directly, the DWP argues:

“The current process is largely clerical / paper-based, which is slow and expensive - easier if automated routine requests and digitise ad-hoc requests.”

The trial using a medical records broker ran for 8 weeks last summer in 10 GP surgeries. It is not clear if patients gave explicit permission for their records to be accessed in this way.

The DWP say the result of the trials was that:

“94% of reports were returned. 29% of these were rejected due to claimants not being matched against surgery records, patients not being registered or where there were incorrect patient details. Of the 71% reports received, 47.5% were called for an examination, 5% were put in the claimant support group and 47.5% were unable to make decisions due to insufficient evidence.”

The advert specifies that the successful developer will have to show that their proposed solution ‘can be easily ported’ into the Health Amazon Web Services Platform.

Alarmingly, the DWP do not rule out sharing the data outside the DWP.

Instead, in response to a question posted by a developer asking whether data ‘could be shared across Government, councils, for example?’ the DWP reply only that:

“This is out of scope of this piece of work. The primary use for the data is for Health/disability assessments, medical information etc.”

The Register raises concerns about the proposed system causing harm to patients if it makes them reluctant to disclose information to their GP, in case it is used against them by the DWP.

They spoke to Med Confidential coordinator Phil Booth, who told them:

"Patients must know that what they tell their doctor will never be used against them, and GPs must never become de facto DWP assessors due to 'data sharing’. The information patients give to their doctor must be untainted by external pressures, or people will come to harm."

Booth pointed out that doctors already come under pressure from the DWP not to issue fit notes and went on to say:

"Automating bad processes doesn't improve them – it makes them worse. And if it [DWP and its assessors] won't trust the information it already gets from NHS professionals, why should DWP have even more?"

You can read the full story on The Register.

Is the DWP ‘data slurping’ of medical records a good idea for speeding up decision making or a threat to patient confidentiality? Let us know what you think.


#14 willow 2019-03-07 09:35
Would slurping not be a breach of GDPR?
+1 #13 lizt12 2019-02-28 13:31
This scares me because medical records could end up in anyones hands as the DWP do not agree to not share the information with other agencies. Equally they used such a tiny sample ho can it be representative. Like other people have said it would people less likely to want to go to their GP. The DWP could also use this against people. I know that I do not discuss with my GP exactly how my health and disability affect me every day so how can the DWP assume that they are getting an accurate daily picture of someones health and disability. Equally for me some of the letters from hospital to my GP have inacurate diagnosises.
+1 #12 donut16 2019-02-27 21:05
can we stop the DWP getting our medical files?
#11 RobJean 2019-02-27 20:29
The DWP meddling/interf ering (ESA113 form,etc..) with your doctors, is already an intrusion and does affect the relationship between patient/doctor. It's not right, and I am sure that the DWP/Maximus-(We all know its ATOS in disguise, lol) will be just after 'cherry picking' anything to use against you to deny your benefit.

Its time the Tory shower (and their cruel policies) were ousted !!
Food Banks, Rising homelessness, wrecking and deviding society,
etc.. etc.. etc..
#10 Asbo 2019-02-27 16:33
This shady practice is already happening, not so much getting the details of your health condition (yet), but whether you have attended the surgery. This was used against me when asking for a home visit for my PIP review which I had two years ago. My GP wrote a detailed supportive letter in fact asking for a paper based assessment. Months later I just got a letter calling me in for assessment. Phoned them up and said I couldn't go and had given GP evidence. Girl on phone says she needs to speak to Health Professional who will write to me. Another letter arrives asking me that I still have to attend By this time MH and anxiety gone through the roof. Friend and welfare rights adviser phones up Atos. He gets the name of the HP and also discovers they phoned my surgery to see if I'd been in. I'd actually had a huge meltdown in the surgery the day before but I'll bet he just spoke to the receptionists with a closed question and my GP was off so they'd not spoken to her. You are giving consent when you fill out the form because they say we may need to contact your GP, primary health care worker etc. Now another member of my family says she is scared to go to doctor's because of this revelation. It is outrageous and put my health at risk. Even GP surgery, where I know the place and people, where you can cancel or choose to have a phone consultation, where the doctors are there to help you and not strip you of your benefits is nerve-racking enough. My MP intervened and got me a home visit which I am still dreading. It is our absolute right under the Equality Act to have a reasonable adjustment because ATos are contracted by the DWP who are bound by the Equality Act
#9 Waylay 2019-02-26 20:59
Medical records often contain errors, as well.

The last time I was putting together evidence for a PIP review, I found a note about alcohol-related psychosis in an occupational therapy letter. Never been an alcoholic, never been psychotic. No idea where it came from.
Every year my surgery sends me a reminder to book a review of my rheumatoid arthritis treatment. I had juvenile idiopathic arthritis as a kid (30 years ago, in Canada), but no rheumatoid arthritis. I told them that 5 or 6 years running, but the letters kept coming. Gave up. *shrug*
#8 nicholson 2019-02-26 20:05
It's complicated.

It's straddles primary and 2ndary services.
It means knowing what docs are in both systems and also being able to read and assess medical notes in order to give informed consent.

What if you don't give consent ? Does obtaining and selecting medical evidence and submitting it yourself also count as admissible ?
+2 #7 buster 2019-02-25 12:45
This news is alarming. I've lost count of the numbers of disabled and ill people who's GPs do not understand the effects of their medical conditions - let alone the relevance of disability benefits descriptors and reliability.

This is a worrying development for the millions of vulnerable people who rely on disability benefits. Let's hope it hits the buffers - and with the shambolic Tory government running it - I wouldn't be surprised.

#6 Chris 2019-02-24 14:23
This is how things will go, this is the future, 'now' this is your life and privacy, these intrusion's by stealth will trample over human rights by any authority with an inclination for profit or bureaucracy. Once these systems are in place the opportunity for them to be abused is awesome. The old adage of 'it doesn't affect me' is gone. This government is treating it's electorate more and more like a statistic, to be misrepresented, lied about, & to, abused and ignored. This abuse of power is truly alarming, soon, your life will (is) not be your own. But, we are to blame, by voting for representation by those with perverse agenda's and selfish motives.
#5 deebee 2019-02-23 21:26
Bigbrotherwatch would be interested in this too surely? Of course, with Brexit comes the inevitable scrapping of Human Rights Legislation - more so for us claimants. With that comes the obvious 'You cannot refuse us access or your claim will be disallowed'. Where does that leave the mentally ill unsupported with limited access to an understanding GP ? Good God. Shoot me now.
#4 Mr B 2019-02-21 18:16
Since the DWP and the supposed health care professionals they use, routinely ignore claimants' medical evidence why do they need access to their medical records? If such access was ever granted the DWP would only use it to the claimant's disadvantage. As far as my own medical records are concerned I certainly would never give the DWP access to them and I would tell them to do their 'slurping' elsewhere!
+2 #3 deadward 2019-02-21 10:43
I think it.s alarming how DWP behave towards claimants
+4 #2 bobtehbuilder 2019-02-21 03:29
how do we opt out of them being able to access medical records ?
+3 #1 pusscatsmum 2019-02-20 16:23
I would personally hate it as it is intrusive on my condition and how and when I access my GP etc

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