A friend of mine is staying with friends locally as her house is having some much needed serious structural work. Because this work may take some months, she decided to register with a local doctor because she requires regular checkups for a serious problem.
All was well until she received the above letter, (my scan didn't cut off the right hand margin, the letter was sent with the end of the second and third lines missing), from Practitioner Services, NHS Scotland, Data Quality Team. It was address to her and she wasn't comfortable with the questions asked. She was more uncomfortable with what the reverse contained:
'I declare that the information I have given on this form is correct and complete. I understand that if it is not appropriate action may be taken. To enable the NHS to confirm that I am lawful and ordinarily resident within the United Kingdom and for the purpose of prevention, detection and investigation of crime. I consent to the disclosure of relevant information from this form including to and by the NHS Business Services Authority, Immigration and Nationality Directorate, the Department for Work and Pensions. HM Revenue & Customs and Local Authorities.
It goes on about medical records, changes to details and data protection and confidentiality.
The letter was passed to me for my opinion and it was agreed I would telephone the Aberdeen number given on the heading to see if we could discover why they require this information when the registration with the local GP had been more comprehensive.
The conversation went like this:
Me: Could I speak to someone in connection with a letter regarding GP registration?
I was asked for the area and another voice answered so I repeated the question.
Voice 2: Why do you want to know?
Me: I want to know if completing this form is a legal requirement.
Voice 2: Mmm there must be a problem with your GP registration.
Me: There is no problem with the person's GP registration and that has been checked. But I'd like to know if this is a legal requirement as on the reverse there is the threat of action if the form is not completed correctly.
Voice 2: There may be problems with the GP getting hold of the person's records.
Me: There can't be because the form doesn't ask for the name and address of the former GP who would hold the records. Is the recipient of this letter legally bound to complete it and return it to you. That's all I want to know.
Voice 2: (becoming irate) It should be returned. What's the name on the letter and I'll see if I can find out what the problem is.
Me: It doesn't matter what the name is, I would just like to know if this form is a legal requirement.
Voice 2: I can do nothing more for you. (Slams down the telephone).
As far as I could verify the NHS has no legal right to threaten action to anyone not completing this type of form, yet they imply, by the wording, that they do. I find this very concerning as it would appear NHS Scotland is building up a data base under false pretences.
My friend's friend has decided she will consult her solicitor about this deceit but not so many people are in a position to spend money on legal advice and many would complete the form without question.
The reason I'm highlighting this incident is because I see this creeping intrusion into our privacy as something condoned by government. How many more forms - of a similar design but on other aspects of our daily lives - are sent out to unsuspecting individuals, who unwittingly give personal information?
I trust Captain Ranty and Anna Raccoon will be pleased I've learned to question government departments.