“Paperless NHS” puts the vulnerable at risk

In the wake of the #TransDocFail hashtag, it has become clear that bad or abusive healthcare at the hands of medical professionals is still as common as it has been historically. Many trans folk have a simple fix for this: don’t tell random medical professionals your full history. This is tougher for trans men but in the case of trans women, “I take HRT and have no uterus or ovaries” tells them everything they need to know. The why simply does not matter one bit in the vast majority of interactions.

But the NHS wants your data, ostensibly because it increases patient safety, and Jeremy Hunt has agreed. Yet again, this is an example of how something that might give a benefit for the majority being wholly unsuitable in both principle and practice for already-marginalised groups. And it is not just medical professionals who will have access to the data: those involved in social care will also gain access.

I doubt that the trans community is the only group affected. One person has already expressed concern that those with mental health issues may also face discrimination. In just the same way as a well-meaning but clueless doctor can assume any complaint must be related to transition, obviously physical conditions often get mistaken for symptoms of mental health conditions in patients who have such a diagnosis.

Not being completely stupid (Hey, stop sniggering at the back) Hunt has promised a opt-out for those that don’t want to be on the new system, just as you can opt-out of the current NHS “Spine” summary database: “You absolutely have to have a process in place for people who don’t want that [data sharing] to happen“.

But opting-out of the spine is tricky, and if you’re obviously opted out of a database that everyone else is on it raises questions.