When Andrew Lansley became health secretary he gave a series of presentations which all began by stressing how the new government would increase patients’ control by giving them more choice and information.
We were to have “an information revolution” and a consultation was launched.
While we wait for the result of that consultation we have time to contemplate why the NHS has made such slow progress on this front.
The key reason is the lack of an effective champion within government which has allowed concerns over patient confidentiality to unbalance the debate. Witness, for example, the reaction to last week’s decision to publish practice level prescribing data. This could and should change with the appointment - not yet confirmed - of Dr Foster founder Tim Kelsey as the government’s transparency tsar.
Mr Kelsey’s starting point is that the citizen and the state have linked responsibilities. The citizen to share their personal data and the state to protect and use it to save lives and improve services.
His views will prove controversial, but HSJ is sure that - to use words the tsar-in-waiting has not - risks to patient confidentiality posed by much greater sharing and use of anonymised data are far outweighed by the benefits it could bring to the NHS and its patients.