KIRKLEES residents must decide if they want NHS staff in other parts of the country to access their health records.
This month NHS Kirklees will issue “Connecting for Health” letters, asking patients if they object to details like current prescriptions, allergies and reactions to medicines being shared.
Privacy campaigners say the move shifts the ownership of medical information from health professionals to the state.
They point out a clause that allows the information to be viewed “in the public interest,” which could mean for medical research.
The information could also be accessed if a court order was gained.
Opponents add that rather than asking residents to “opt in” to the new system, it automatically includes them unless an “opt out” objection is received within around 12 weeks.
Health chiefs deny accusations of a “Big Brother” database, saying the creation of the centralised Summary Care Record (SCR) increases the speed of treatment if someone is injured or taken ill away from home.
The letters have already been issued by NHS Calderdale so some residents will have received them.
James Elsdon-Baker, of the NO2ID campaign, said: “If people do nothing or fail to respond within the deadline, their personal details and potentially highly sensitive medical information, such as their last six months’ prescriptions, are uploaded on to an SCR.
“Once this has been viewed, it will never be deleted from the system.
“We would encourage people to opt-out now, as if they change their minds records can always be created at a later date.”
Connecting for Health is a key part of the NHS’s plans for its IT infrastructure.
The plan is for summary records to be updated with more detailed information at a later date.
Primary Care Trusts stressed the SCRs can ensure fast treatment.
Spokesmen for NHS Kirklees, based at St Luke’s Hospital, Crosland Moor, and NHS Calderdale both issued a statement saying: “The SCRs will give healthcare professionals, particularly in emergency situations, quick access to important health information for patients..
“They are only accessible by staff directly involved in a patient’s treatment and all patients will be asked each time a healthcare practitioner needs to look at their record.
“Patients who opt-out now can choose to opt-in in the future.”
In Calderdale, the records would not be created until July, meanwhile the Kirklees letters will be issued to the public on April 22.
More information is available at www.nhscarerecords.nhs.uk