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News & views

Crystal-marked leaflet at centre of NHS England fiasco

[23 Feb 2014] Public concerns about – the new programme from NHS England in which everyone’s confidential medical records will be brought together in one giant database – have led to the scheme’s introduction being put on ice for at least six months. The Government has admitted its efforts to inform the public have been poor. In a YouGov poll of 1,100 adults, more than two thirds said they had not seen the four-page leaflet [click here to download] that was delivered to 26 million households at a cost of £1.2million. Many people may have disregarded it as junk mail as it lacked impact or visual appeal and was not individually addressed.

Those who have tried to make sense of the leaflet, called ‘Better information means better care’, seem to have found it a muddle. ‘Incoherent, superficial and grossly misleading’ was the verdict of John Bradfield, a former medical, psychiatric and child care social worker in a letter to the agency’s chief executive. He said it failed ‘to provide a picture which can be readily understood, without having to read endless websites and other information’. 

The leaflet – which carries the Crystal Mark from Plain English Campaign Ltd – fails to say clearly what NHS England wants to do with people’s medical records or how people can opt out if they don’t like the plan. The leaflet lacks any heading that says ‘What should I do if I want to opt out?’ Its lack of clarity and candour seems to have left those few who have read it puzzled and uneasy, amid fears that the NHS could flog their health data to private companies in the same way that the DVLA sells motorists’ data to private companies including some run by convicted criminals.

The Daily Telegraph reported on 19 Feb, ‘Officials...will launch a publicity campaign to explain the scheme to the public and ensure that individuals are aware of their right to opt out.’

Yet that’s what the leaflet was supposed to do in the first place. [cont]

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