Posted by: Witch Doctor | January 6, 2013

Red, orange and green lemons


The Witch Doctor had to cast one of her favourite spells – the one that makes her being and her brain young again in order to work out why My Black Cat has designated 2013 “The Year of the Lemon”.

It seems to be something to do with databases, data-mining, data-warehousing, and patient confidentiality.

She says we all need to get to know more about it. Especially patients.

She is reflecting on a post that we first published in March 2009 at the time a highly regarded consultant physician was sacked for effectively sending information from herself to herself for the benefit of her patients. At the same time the government of the day was participating in illegal data collection affecting us all.

Below is a link to the whole document that we referred to back then:




And here is what we said then about this ridiculous situation:


You will recollect, My Black Cat, that Dr Shirine Boardman, a consultant diabetic specialist was sacked seemingly after sending names and addresses of diabetic patients from the hospital where she worked to a community centre linked to the NHS where she also worked. She played a major role in developing this centre. ie one might conclude she effectively sent the data from herself to herself.

She transferred the information in order to invite these patients to attend the community centre so they might benefit from the services offered.

So it seems an action designed to help diabetics, many of them her own patients, cost her her job.

It’s OK though, if a government produces a multitude of illegal databases and does what the hell it likes with them.

Will there be any sackings then?

Of course not!

The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd have published a report called “The Database State” which classifies UK held databases into RED, AMBER OR GREEN.


They are broadly in line with the law.

The report says:

“Some of these databases have operational problems, not least due to the recent cavalier attitude toward both privacy and operational security, but these could be fixed once transparency, accountability and proper risk management are restored”

“Six years into the Transformational Government programme, the number of green databases is now shockingly low. Of the 46 databases assessed in this report, only six are given a green light”


AMBER means that a database has significant problems, and may be unlawful. Depending on the circumstances, it may need to be shrunk, or split, or individuals may have to be given a right to opt out. An incoming government should order an independent assessment of each system to identify and prioritise necessary changes.”

The following are 2 of the 29 Amber Databases

The NHS Summary Care Record, which will ‘initially’ hold information such as allergies and current prescriptions, although some in the Department of Health appear to want to develop it into a full electronic health record that will be available nationally. In Scotland, where the SCR project has been completed, there has lready been an abuse case in which celebrities had their records accessed by a doctor who is now facing charges. The Prime Minister’s own medical records were reported compromised. There is some doubt about whether patients will be able to opt out effectively from this system, and if they cannot, it will be downgraded to red;

The National Childhood Obesity Database, which is the largest of its kind in the world, containing the results of height and weight measurements taken from school pupils in Year 1 (age 5–6) and Year 6 (10–11) since 2005. This database is simply unnecessary;”


“Red means that a database is almost certainly illegal under human rights or data protection law and should be scrapped or substantially redesigned. The collection and sharing of sensitive personal data may be disproportionate, or done without our consent, or without a proper legal basis; or there may be other major privacy or operational problems. Most of these systems already have a high public profile. One of them (the National DNA Database) has been condemned by the European Court of Human Rights, and both the Conservative Party and Liberal Democrats have promised to scrap many of the others.

The following are the RED databases:

The National DNA Database, which holds DNA profiles for approximately 4 million individuals, over half a million of whom are innocent (they have not been convicted, reprimanded, given a final warning or cautioned, and have no proceedings pending against them) – including more than 39,000 children;

The National Identity Register, which will store biographical information, biometric data and administrative data linked to the use of an ID card;

ContactPoint, which is a national index of all children in England. It will hold biographical and contact information for each child and record their relationship with public services, including a note on whether any ‘sensitive service’ is working with the child;

The NHS Detailed Care Record, which will hold GP and hospital records in remote servers controlled by the government, but to which many care providers can add their own comments, wikipedia-style, without proper control or accountability; and the Secondary Uses Service, which holds summaries of hospital and other treatment in a central system to support NHS administration and research;

The electronic Common Assessment Framework, which holds an assessment of a child’s welfare needs. It can include sensitive and subjective information, and is too widely disseminated;

ONSET, which is a Home Office system that gathers information from many sources and seeks to predict which children will offend in the future;

The DWP’s cross-departmental data sharing programme, which involves sharing large amounts of personal information with other government departments and the private sector;

The Audit Commission’s National Fraud Initiative, which collects sensitive information from many different sources and under the Serious and Organised Crime Act 2007 is absolved from any breaches of confidentiality;

The communications database and other aspects of the Interception Modernisation Programme, which will hold everyone’s communication traffic data such as itemised phone bills, email headers and mobile phone location history;

The Prüm Framework, which allows law enforcement information to be shared between EU without proper data protection.”

So, My Black Cat, who do you suppose is culpable?

Dr Boardman or Her Majesty’s Government?

redapple.jpg a red apple ……………………

The Witch Doctor – Link to a random page






  1. Thanks for this WD. Your Black Cat has a very good nose for this kind of thing and I’m going to have a good read through. It’s alarming the amount of info people can collect about you and use. I have stuck doggedly to my policy of no loyalty cards from supermarkets, (though I feel a twinge at all the points I’m losing) and I’ve never had a credit card, but I wonder if I’m just kidding myself when I see stuff like this.

  2. Witches or black cats have no loyalty cards either but we can see the day coming when paying for anything in cash will be considered so odd as to require a database check and an ID card!

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