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"I am not a number, I am a FREE man!"

In a move of staggering ghastliness, in patients can look forward to sporting bar codes on their wrists when next in hospital. Yes, really

"By wearing a bar-coded wristband a bar code reader can be used to verify the patient's identity at any time, and be an extra check that the right patient is about to received the right care. At present errors, many of which are caused by getting the patient identity wrong, cost the NHS around £2 billion in extra bed days. Auto-identification could make a significant impact on this cost...Auto-identification is not a new technology - we've all been used to bar codes in supermarkets for years." Yup, we're tins of beans, and as we all know from the monumental sucess of NHS IT programmes, absolutely no errors will ever be made when patients are branded.

Why not go the whole hog and scrawl the details on the patient's forehead with a magic marker?

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Blogger Prodicus said... 11:03 am

Or tattoo it on his wrist, first time in, to save time IT resources next time he's admitted. Tasteless? Only if you believe 'it could never happen again' - which I don't.  



Anonymous Observer said... 11:15 am

Probably a good idea. With the number of agency nurses and the age of many patients, or their non-English communication skills, and the way medical notes and drug sheets go walkabout in hospital - this might be a good additional measure to introduce  



Blogger Newmania said... 11:18 am

Why not go the whole hog and scrawl the details on the patient's forehead with a magic marker

Um.. when you are swilling around with a flotilla of beds all off for this or that operation and knowing you will be unconscious having the right details on your head does not seem a bad idea at all.
I `m afraid this look like a perfectly sensible measure to me C.


…and you are not a human being you are a virtual construct who long ago ascended from corporeal form .  



Blogger Croydonian said... 11:34 am

Prodicus - the same thought had occurred to me...

I have no objections to clipboard notes hanging from the end of a patient's bed, but this wrist tag business is repulsive.  



Blogger Dr Michelle Tempest said... 11:49 am

As for writing on the head - as long as they use the magic marker and not the tattoo! It also helps when staff ask for the patients name. I do understand some patients are not able to say their name, but then how do you know they've got the right tag to start with? Michelle  



Anonymous Anonymous said... 11:52 am

I do like the idea ,it gives only one chance of a mistake ,garbage in garbage out is always around ,you will know who to sue after the wrong operation,as you know computer's never make a mistake.  



Blogger Justin Hinchcliffe said... 11:52 am

I can see merit in the bands. Highly unlikely that they'd get mixed up/abused as Dr. Michelle suggests.  



Anonymous swift said... 11:57 am

'At present errors, many of which are caused by getting the patient identity wrong, cost the NHS around £2 billion in extra bed days.'
What is the cost of one bed day? How is that figure calculated? And how many people are affected by these mistakes? I bet this £2 billion figure wouldn't stand up to much scrutiny.  



Anonymous David Allen said... 12:25 pm

It does seem like a sensible idea (although tasteless, as C says, because we associate bar codes with commodities), but then every innovation seems to have unintended consequences. What could they be in this case? Could there be a black market in wristbands wrenched from the hands of the terminally ill becasue they 'grant the wearer (!) morphine on demand'? An absurd example, perhaps, but somethign is bound to go wrong, it always does! ;-)  



Blogger Newmania said... 1:28 pm

You see C everyone agrees with me your sneering reflex kicked in to quickly.We would all rather not have our legs amputated when we popped in for a quick nose hair extraction thankyou.  



Anonymous Anonymous said... 1:31 pm

Erm, don't we already have wristbands in hospital? Don't they have the patient's name and date of birth written on them?

So what's different?  



Anonymous verity said... 1:50 pm

I'm in with the folks who think it's a good idea. A name can be misread by a "nurse" who can't speak or read English, but a bar code is universally understood.

You're not being branded for life, Croydonian! You just have to wear a wrist band while you're in hospital.

Anyway, the NHS should be destroyed at the same time as we destroy the BBC. These communist/socialist dinosaur constructs need to go.  



Anonymous David Allen said... 2:14 pm

C, I hope you're not feeling too embattled!
Will you be posting on the big speech by David Cameron today?  



Blogger Croydonian said... 2:21 pm

I suppose I cannot expect universal agreement every time I get up on my high horse. Still, Dizzy thought it was appalling too.  



Anonymous iancroydon said... 2:24 pm

Eh ? You get a wristband already, so whats the big deal if its got a barcode or a RFID chip in it ?

Wristbands in use today are normally once-use only, they can't be taken off without it being obvious.

With RFID technology you could even swallow a pill with it in, I'd love to see what fellow would like a second hand one of those !  



Anonymous verity said... 2:39 pm

I am baffled at Croydonian's sense of offence. It's just a surefire means of identifying you while you are receiving medical treatment. You are not going to be required to wear it for the rest of your life.  



Blogger dizzy said... 2:50 pm

1: The barcode generation is unique.
2: It will be entered on a computer system in the hospital into a database matching your barcode to your personal information and records.
3: The Government, through NHS Connecting for Health has a stated desire of connecting all facilties within the NHS up.

As I keep telling everyone, each little step is picthed in isolation of it's supposed benefit whilst we simulatneously build the infrastructure such that in the future this barcode will become yours, with you for life. Then the NI db will be linked into the NHS one and sahre the barcode as a primary key.

Am I saying this is creeping totalitarianism? No. Am I saying that the automony over the ownership of my information is being slowly eaten away by each of these little steps? Yes. Am I also saying that we cannot always guarantee that a Government won't use such data in unfriendly ways. Yes.

I'm actually shocked by the blase attitude with which features within dystopian science fiction mightmares are being set up and everyone shurgs and says "this amkes life so much easier".  



Blogger dizzy said... 2:51 pm

and no I don't have a tin foil hat. But I do know that the state exists because of individuals, not the other way round.  



Anonymous verity said... 3:20 pm

Hmmm,Dizzy, when you put it in context, yes, I can see the point of outrage.  



Anonymous iancroydon said... 3:58 pm

"in the future this barcode will become yours, with you for life"

Such a barcode will be a key for your personal medical history.

Your personal medical history is yours for life, in fact it _is_ your life, it is unarguably the most important tool you possess to prevent illness and to recover from injury.

Your argument is perfunctory, the reason we want the NHS to exist is to provide satisfactory medical treatment, for which your personal medical history is a vital component, the barcode does nothing to change that, it adds nothing to it other than efficiency.

If the government is on course to barcode your life as you believe, then this particular barcode has fuck all to do with it, really, absolutely fuck all.

NI link up with NHS - so babies have NI numbers nowdays ?

"Goodness nurse, not only is this man diabetic, but he got a £100 fine for not completing his tax return last January, quick fetch the special issue tax avoidance insulin immediately !"

I don't think "context" even enters into it.  



Blogger Croydonian said... 4:16 pm

Ian, in the light of the moves to deny healthcare to smokers, the obese etc etc, would you still be so sanguine about being refused care on the grounds that you were at one point stamped as being low priority, even if those circumstances had since changed?  



Anonymous verity said... 4:21 pm

Ian Croydon writes: "the reason we want the NHS to exist ...". What?

Other than dead beats and foreigners who need heart transplants or have AIDS, who wants to NHS to exist? It's a third world, crap outfit. Like everything else run by the British government.

And as long as you have the NHS, you give the government a rod to beat your back with by refusing treatment for illnesses brought on by lifestyle choices. (Except AIDS, of course.) Dump the NHS. It's Sovietesque.  



Blogger dizzy said... 4:34 pm

Such a barcode will be a key for your personal medical history. Your personal medical history is yours for life, in fact it _is_ your life, it is unarguably the most important tool you possess to prevent illness and to recover from injury.

Accept you will not own it. You will no longer have the autonomy to won it. The state will own it and your relationship with the state will fundamnetally change. No longer will you choose to be able to disclose your infromation when you want to. The state will take ownership of your information.

Your argument is perfunctory, the reason we want the NHS to exist is to provide satisfactory medical treatment, for which your personal medical history is a vital component, the barcode does nothing to change that, it adds nothing to it other than efficiency.

It is not perfunctory at all. Unlike your argument which is grounded upon the assumption that the state is and will always be benevolent, mine is grounded on the very real basis that it is individuals that control their own information. You will have no choice in this matter about your medical records

If the government is on course to barcode your life as you believe, then this particular barcode has fuck all to do with it, really, absolutely fuck all.

Actually I didn't say that. I was referring to pelthora of IT projects acorss Government, and the propsoals for information sharing between Government IT systems. the only thin that is "fuck all" here is your knowledge of both cross-goevrnment information sharing policy, cross-goevrnment information systems, and the basic philsophical foundations of liberal society.

system link up with NHS - so babies have NI numbers nowdays ?

"Goodness nurse, not only is this man diabetic, but he got a 100 fine for not completing his tax return last January, quick fetch the special issue tax avoidance insulin immediately !"


This is a glib refute of the example and completely misses the point. It is not about issuing of NI numebrs to be babies and only a complete dickhead would even think that was what was being said.

What it is about is, as I've said already, is the Government information sharing strategy across Whitehall, coupled with Goevrnment IT systems such as Connecting for Health, and the slow construction of infrastructure that could very easily be used as part of a totalitarian state.

I am not saying it is going to happen, I am saying that the bar code represnt yet another isolated piece of a technological reality that we are constrcuting for oursleevs in Britain and that we are doing it because we fool sin charge who are unable to think of the wider implications of what they are proposing. Added to this we have people like yourself who are clearly ignorant of Government policy on these matters.  



Anonymous Anonymous said... 5:00 pm

Why don't they just micro-chip us at birth (in government "hatcheries" - as in Brave New World)  



Anonymous verity said... 5:41 pm

Britain has always had a totalitarian mindset and I daresay that, even once they understand the implications that Dizzy spelled out so lucidly and strongly, most people won't really care.

No one in the United States would dare moot such a plan! I find the British very passive - with the exception of a few astute bloggers.  



Anonymous Colin said... 7:05 pm

That must be a strange hospital where doctors and nurses are messing up the identity of patients. In all those years, I have never come across such a case. Naturally, in principle, it's possible and a sign for an inhuman medical system.

BTW, the Nazis tattooed ID numbers in the left arm of psychiatric patients.  



Anonymous Colin said... 7:28 pm

In regard to the consequences of governmental access to medical records, let's assume for a moment that a non-benevolent dictator obtains the power. He will be supported by people belonging to his ethnic group and opposed by people of another ethnicity. We might take the German Nazis and their hate of Jews, gypsies and Africans as an example.

The dictator has an interest to eliminate the opposition. He could do it the old-fashioned way (i.e. sending the police or a hit man) or using modern technology. Currently, computer algorithms are able to tell the ethnicity based on DNA fingerprinting. That would enable the dictatorship to identify opponents. Furthermore, manipulation of medical records of opponents would lead to life-threatening treatments by doctors which then would die by "natural" causes.

The entire system could be fine-tuned taking other data in consideration such as websites visited, shopping behavior, ethnicity, religion, movements (e.g. to the church or mosque) of individuals identified by GPS or cameras able to read the biometric data of faces. All these things are technologically already possible. Only the access to and the combination of all these data is still missing. But they are working on it, naturally only to prevent terrorism. "Honi soi qui mal y pense."  



Anonymous Me said... 11:03 pm

The Nazis didn't just tattoo numbers on the arms of psychiatric patients.
What has this got to do with tattooing anyway. It's a simple band that goes on the patient's wrist so that they don't get the wrong drugs etc. It already exists. I can't see the problem with adding a barcode. I work in the NHS and I'm all for eliminating any possible errors. In any case, it can't be worse than using an Oyster card.  



Anonymous Me said... 11:16 pm

p.s.
It's obviously connected with the Electronic Patient Record thing, which is much better than the exisiting system of a folder full of information that can get into the hands of anyone in the hospital and which can so easily go astray (eg if a patient is under more than one consultant in a hospital, and/or in a trust consisting of more than one hospital). Patient records go missing all the time, unfortunately, but computers tend not to. If you were admitted to hospital, would you not rather all your information being at hand - even via a few barcodes?  



Anonymous lilith said... 3:17 pm

I watched a nurse place a barcode on 3 samples of spinal fluid I very generously offered a consultant in hospital. By the next morning two of the samples were lost without trace. It is a very secure system and I have every confidence etc etc....  



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