NHS to issue ‘wellbeing alerts’?

alertUnless you are the sort of person who likes computers, reading a blog about ‘Government databases’ and ‘information sharing’ is unlikely to hold you captive. Even the most enthusiastic techie finds conversations about ‘statistical architecture’ a little bit boring.

But when it comes to the Named Person scheme, these are topics worth pursuing. Why? Because from August, state officials will have new powers to pass around your confidential records. Data will be shared without consent and even in defiance of your wishes.


You might remember that when the First Minister was asked about this, she insisted that “information sharing should always be appropriate, and it should always be proportionate to concerns about wellbeing”.

But what could be more inappropriate and disproportionate than sharing confidential data on the basis of a child’s “wellbeing”? It’s an entirely subjective concept, open to serious misuse. (Remember that Government guidance says ‘wellbeing concerns’ include: being under 5, illness within the extended family, and whether a child gets a say in how their room is decorated.)

Gross invasion

When the Scottish Government engaged IT consultants Sopra Steria in 2013 to review NHS data sharing, they apparently wanted a system to “allow a wide range of child and adult related documents to be shared”.




Then there is this fascinating paragraph:

“The GIRFEC focus on early and effective intervention requires information to be shared with a child’s Named Person at the first sign of risk to well-being far in advance of Child Protection measures. Alerts relating to child protection could be expanded to meet the requirements of the [Named Person law] and the scope altered to include well-being concerns.” (Para. 9.3)

And this:

“All public bodies will be required to share any information that they have, which may indicate a risk to a child’s well-being. In effect this introduces a threshold where information must be shared far below that which is currently regarded as Child Protection. It is recommended that the requirements and options for cross border data sharing are properly reviewed with key stakeholders with scrutiny on the merits and sustainability of each approach. There may be an opportunity to share well-being concerns in a similar or identical manner as Child Protection alerts.” (Para. 5.4)

Is the NHS seriously considering the equivalent of a child protection alert over a wellbeing concern? Imagine how much more private information will be needlessly spread around officials if this were to go ahead. And just how are child protection professionals meant to wade through this flood of additional information – all effectively marked ‘urgent’ – to identify the truly at risk children?

This proposal is yet more proof that the implementation of the Government’s Named Person law in August will be counter-productive to child protection, and intrusive on family privacy.