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(en) SchNEWS 481, Friday 21st January, 2005 WAKE UP! WAKE UP! IT'S YER GOVERNMENT HEALTH WARNING...

From Jo Makepeace <webmaster@schnews.org.uk>
Date Fri, 21 Jan 2005 16:17:09 +0100 (CET)


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IT Go Home --- "The National Programme for IT is bringing modern computer systems
into the NHS to improve the patient experience." - Department of Health.
Don't worry if you can't find an NHS dentist in your area, have
been waiting months for a vital operation or have had a few painful
hours in Casualty waiting to be treated - your "experience" is going
to be improved with a wonderful new computer system!
Rather than recruit more nurses and pay them a decent wage, or
build a few more hospitals, the government in its infinite wisdom
has decided to spend anywhere between £18-£31 billion over the
next ten years on a new computer system for the Health Service.

This government is obsessed with new computer databases and thinks
that this is the way to run everything "more efficiently" - from
benefits to passports, the Child Support Agency to air traffic
control. But in every case the computer system has fucked up and
gone way over budget. So do you trust the government to run a £30
billion IT system of sensitive and personal information? Well it's
not actually the government that runs the databases of course,
they're "outsourced" to a whatever private company bids lowest.
Two companies involved are Ovum who specialize in "Advising on the
commercial impact of technology and market changes in telecoms,
software and IT services" and Gartner who "will provide market
intelligence of the global IT marketplace." Neither company
appears to knows one end of a doctor's stethoscope from another,
but having knowledge of the Health Service doesn't matter. Does
it?

At the heart of "The National Programme for IT" (NPfIT) is a new
booking system for appointments called "Choose and Book" which is
supposed to offer patients a choice of when and where their
operation will take place (How about - at a local hospital as soon
as possible, or is that too much to ask?). NPfIT is to go
nationwide by the end of this year as does the Integrated Care
Record Service (ICRS), which will be a national medical database
of all NHS patients. The NPfIT isn't going too well so far though:
this week the National Audit Office said that in the pilot scheme
only 63 out of an expected 205,000 hospital referrals were made
using the booking system.The British Medical Association (BMA) has
expressed concern that the system could compromise patient
confidentiality and has warned GPs against taking part in the
trials. They've reminded doctors the operating system was not a
contractual obligation and they can decline to be involved. Only
27% of GPs have said they are willing to use the Choose and Book
system.

The BMA says the software behind it is flawed - every time a
patient makes a booking, the hospital will automatically download
a copy of the patient's medical record from the Integrated Care
Record Service, a system the BMA is not satisfied is secure, they
say "We are extremely concerned that there are a number of
unresolved issues relating to Choose and Book which could
jeopardise the confidentiality and security of patient records. We
are also concerned about the workload and resource implications."
Trial schemes of the Choose and Book system have run into trouble
already, which doesn't bode well for a system expected to handle
13 million outpatient consultations, four million emergency
admissions and 617 million prescriptions a year.

The system is so flawed that anyone with access to the system can
access any patient's records and make changes. One senior
physician involved in the project said: "It's a system that's just
asking to be abused." In addition to allowing any user to access a
patient's records, the system does not keep sensitive details such
as HIV and pregnancy terminations from being made available on the
NHS's central computer. The central computer managing the Choose
and Book system has also proved unreliable. It often works slowly
and has crashed for long periods.

Stitched Up!

And what of us lowly patients - what say have we had in the system
of centralizing our health records? What guarantee is there that
our confidential records will be safe?

The national database of medical records is being created without
patients' consent and while the Health Authorities tell us our
data will be safe and our authorization will be required for
access, this is a lie. The data will be made available to a range
of authorities such as the police under rather vague "special
circumstances". These "special circumstances" have not been
defined but probably include political protests, petty crime, and
to harass ethnic minorities or the poorest in society.

A major worry is about the confidentiality of the database - after
all who wants the highly sensitive information about their health
to be accessed by any Tom, Dick or Harry (Shipman)? The
fundamental problem with a central database of medical records is
that it undermines the relationship a patient has with their
doctor. As Paul Steventon a GP and chair of the Doctors
Independent Network says "Potential exists in the ICRS as it is
currently envisaged for the permanent destruction of the privacy
of UK citizens. Irreparable damage to the profession and practice
of medicine in Britain is an inevitable consequence."

The previous Home Secretary David Blunkett has talked about
linking the NHS database to the proposed ID card scheme, if
Blunkett had had his way the police, social services, etc. would
all be allowed access to the database and see your personal health
records; our accidents and their circumstances; our sexual
relations and next of kin. Medical records can reveal private
facts and relations and they can be humiliating. Medical records
should be strictly confidential between a doctor and their
patient, no-one else should have access to this information.

And while we hear bland assurances about how all the information
will be confidential, how do we know what will happen in the
future? Once the database is up and running it would be very easy
for the government to relax the legal terms and conditions for
access. This government has already under the guise of the "war on
terror" pushed through laws eroding the rights of minorities and
protesters. It is a business-bent government, which one day may
give way to the interests of private companies such as insurance
agencies or employers and concede access to them.

If you aren't too happy with your medical records being shared on
a massive database, let your GP know, remember GPs don't have to
take part in the scheme and many are hostile to it. Ask your
doctor not to take part in the "Choose and Book" system and do not
give them your consent to book appointments for you through it.
Ask your GP to stick to the boycott of the Integrated Care Record
Service.

More info: Brighton Against Databases, email
brighton_against_databases@yahoo.co.uk

* Defy ID discussion next Wednesday 26th Cowley Club, 12 London
Rd., Brighton 6.30pm www.defy-id.org.uk/resources.htm

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CRAP ARREST OF THE WEEK

Flap Flip Flop!

Prolific peace campaigner Lindis Percy was arrested outside US spy
base Menwith Hill for waving an upside down US flag with the words
"The shame of Iraq" written on it. According to one flipped out
police officer "it was dangerous... and she might flap it"! On the
same day two other peace protesters had their car searched under
the Terrorism Act. Lindis has now been arrested eight times
outside Menwith in as many weeks. www.caab.org.uk

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FANCY GETTING INVOLVED WITH SCHNEWS?

Come and find out how you can help get involved in writing and
researching Wed 2nd Feb 12 noon

Want to help with our web site? - Thursday 3rd Feb 6pm (people
with some web knowledge only please).

Book your place now schnews@brighton.co.uk or call us on 01273
685913

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Water Palavar

Five years ago the Bolivian city of Cochabamba erupted in riots
against Bechtel, the California-based multinational that had
bought up their water and was selling it back at kerr-azy prices.
The water privatization was forced on Bolivia by the World Bank as
a loan condition in '97. Bechtel were forced to leave the country,
but government repression left more than a hundred wounded and a
17-year-old boy dead.

Bechtel sued for $25 million, drawing a firestorm of international
protest, which made them settle for only 30 cents and they slunk
off with their tail between their legs. The Abengoa Corporation of
Spain, Bechtel's co-investors, haven't got the message yet though.
They are still demanding compensation for lost profits.

Now the city of El Alto, two hundred miles to the north, is doing
the same against a local company led by the French water giant,
Suez. El Alto is a growing urban sprawl that sits 14,000 feet
above sea level and is populated by waves of impoverished families
arriving from the economically desperate countryside.

Community groups in El Alto say that company has raised water
prices by 35% since it took over. The cost for new families to
hook their homes up to water and sewage is more than six month's
income at the national minimum wage, and those outside the centre
get no clean water or sewers at all. Lack of access to clean water
is a chief cause of child illness in Bolivia, where nearly one in
ten children dies before the age of five. Families living in El
Alto's outskirts rely on water from wells contaminated with
industrial waste. By failing to expand water infrastructure to
these fast-growing neighbourhoods, the company has left more than
200,000 people with no possibility of access to water at all.
"Without water there is no life," says Julian Perez, an advisor to
the Federation of El Alto Neighborhoods, "so really it is life
that the company is depriving the people of El Alto."

The President of Bolivia has issued a formal decree that the
country is taking back control of the water. Suez Corporation says
it isn't ready to leave. This is where the El Alto water revolt
stood at the end of last week. Suez are enjoying the sunshine and
seem to think their little business venture is going well. A Suez
spokesperson declared that "Shareholders will use all the legal
recourses at their disposal to protect their rights. Ending a
contract that is compliant and obtaining indisputable results will
not be an easy task for the Bolivian government."

To their credit, the government hasn't shot anybody and is in
agreement with the people of El Alto that Suez has failed them and
should leave. Bolivia is in turmoil nationally with huge
nationwide protests over gas prices. Fuel protests forced the
resignation of former President Gonzalo Sànchez de Lozada in
October 2003 and his successor President Carlos Mesa has
threatened to resign if the current protests turned violent.

The underlying theme is the struggle of the Bolivian people to
keep some control over their country's natural resources and to
resist the plunder that has been going on since the Spanish
landed. When Suez leave, as it seems they will, where will the
money come from to provide the people of Bolivia with water?

* For updates see www.democracyctr.org

* While yer at it, read 'Cochabamba! Water War in Bolivia' by
Oscar Olivera & Tom Lewis, South End Press, 2004.

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SchNEWS in brief

* 'Terror Suspect's Dad' - a documentary about Barbar Ahmad,
another victim of the 'war on terror' who faces extradition to the
US (see SchNEWS 474) - is on BBC2 next Weds 26th, 10pm
www.freebabarahmad.com

* In the build-up to the Kyoto Climate March on Feb 12th there's a
couple of public meetings being held around the country, including
one in Brighton next Thursday (27th) 6pm, at Chichester Lecture
Theatre, University of Sussex. For other talks 02088553327
www.campaigncc.org

* Stop the Removals Demonstration against the government's forced
deportation of Zimbabwean asylum seekers, Sat 29th, 1-5pm, Home
Office, 50 Queen Anne's Gate, London.
stoptheremovals_zimbabwe@yahoo.co.uk

* Glasgow Anarchist Day School Sat 29th Jan, 11am-6pm, Kinning
Park Centre.

* Earth First! Winter Moot 5-6 Feb somewhere in Sussex 07837
942373 www.eco-action.org/gathering

* International Anti-G8 Meeting, Tuebingen, Germany, 26-27 Feb.
For people involved or interested in co-ordinating European
resistance to the 2005 G8 Summit. For more information:
info-g82005@riseup.net
www.nadir.org/nadir/initiativ/agp/resist-g8/g8resist-tuebingen.htm

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Mothers Of Invention

In a direct action protest run entirely by locals, the carnage to
make way for the Linslade bypass between Milton Keynes and
Aylesbury has been stopped since last Monday. It's taken a group
of 40 mothers and kids to defend the land against the combined
efforts of contractors Fitzpatricks, Homegrown Timber Ltd and the
police as they try to drag the digging equipment onto the site to
begin work. And the destruction wouldn't just end with the road as
this is one of the Government's "growth areas", with Milton Keynes
set to have 44,000 new houses by 2021 and Aylesbury 15,000.

Two women have been arrested and charged with Aggravated Trespass
for chaining themselves to a digger. Bailed not to go near the
Bypass route, they have a preliminary court hearing on Jan 28th,
and hope to use the trial to call the legality of the scheme into
question.

Road Block claims there are around 200 road schemes planned
countrywide, forming a roads programme to rival the Conservatives'
'Roman-style' programme of the early 1990s.

* Urgent help is needed now - contact Victoria 07815 817108
vharvey@btopenworld.com

* For daily updates
www.linsladeprotest.oneuk.com/bypass/bypass.html

* See also www.roadalert.org.uk or www.roadblock.org.uk

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Tim Spice(r) but Dim

Looking for a new line of work? Try working as a bodyguard in
Iraq. It's a health and safety nightmare, but the money's good.
Former Special Forces soldiers are queuing up for jobs that can
pay more than $100,000 a year. More than 50 private security firms
are in Iraq today, with an estimated 20,000 hired guns working for
them.

Now notorious mercenary Tim Spicer is in on the act. Last March
Spicer's London-based company, Aegis Defense Services, bagged a
$293 million contract from the Pentagon to protect US diplomats in
Iraq, and coordinate the other security firms. Five Democratic
senators protested the Aegis contract on humanitarian grounds,
citing Spicer's record. The army admitted they had been unaware of
'trouble spots' in Spicer's past, but refused to reconsider the
contract.

Spicer is a killer-for-hire with a long record of scandal and
bloodshed behind him. He was embroiled in the attempted Equatorial
Guinea coup, along with hapless crook Mark Thatcher. He's been
arrested for similar failed coups in Sierra Leone, and was paid
$36 million by the government of Papua New Guinea to suppress a
rebellion. He failed and the government collapsed. Another day
another dollar.

His former company, Sandline International, illegally supplied
weapons to Sierra Leone, defying a UN arms embargo that had been
affirmed as British law. And, in an earlier scandal, two soldiers
in a British unit under Spicer's command shot and killed a
Catholic teenager in Northern Ireland in 1992. The soldiers were
subsequently convicted of murder, but Spicer has steadfastly
defended them.

"Mark my words, this contract is going to come back and bite
them," said Rev. Sean McManus of the Irish National Caucus, "He's
a dangerous fellow. And as his record in Ireland shows... these
guys don't change their spots."

Lt Col Spicer will be speaking at the School of Oriental and
African Studies next Thursday (27th) 6pm about his experiences in
Africa. Why not go along and ask for a job in the 'reconstruction'
of Iraq? Want a ticket for the meeting? See
www.royalafricansociety.org/what_we_do/ras-meetings/private_securi
tycompanies/view or telephone The Royal African Society 020 7898
4390.

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ROUGH MUSIC

Brighton's been crying out for one for a while - no, not another
poxy coffee shop but an independent local newsletter that tells it
how it is. 'Rough Music' is named after the old Sussex tradition
of standing outside dodgy peoples' houses and making some noise.
It aims to be monthly and you can pick up copies around town. The
first issue covers the teachers assistant strike, Brighton arms
dealers EDO, Shoreham airport and coffee shops. If you've got any
dirt you'd like to get them to dig email roughmusic@hotmail.co.uk

* South Coast Indymedia is now online covering Kent, Sussex and
Hampshire. See some saucy seaside postcards at...
www.indymedia.org.uk/en/regions/southcoast

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..and finally...

Isn't it a hassle having to queue for drinks when you're out? And
then trying to make yourself heard over shite house music? And
then realising you've run out of money? What a wind-up. Wouldn't
it be better if bars could just implant a chip in your body, with
your account details and personal information stored on it? That
way, they'd know your name as soon as you walked in the door, and
the barman would serve up your favourite drink and automatically
charge your account any time you walked near the bar. Wouldn't
that be easier for everyone?

If you're thinking, "No, that sounds like a sinister capitalist
conspiracy with terrifying civil rights implications, not to
mention a good way to spunk all my cash on expensive drinks
without realising it," well, you're right. But that's exactly the
'reward' that Bar Soba in Glasgow is offering its loyal customers.
The VeriChip, which has a lifespan of 20 years (and can be used
for 'defence and homeland security' purposes, as well as bar tabs)
is already in use in bars in Spain and Holland. "It'd be great if
this catches on," one chipped punter told the Observer, "you could
put all your personal details and medical records on it." But, is
there a free curry in it? Just give it time, mate.

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Disclaimer
SchNEWS warns all patients, patience is a virtue... Honest!

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INFORMATION FOR ACTION - IF YOU LIKE IT PASS IT ON...

What's On? Check out out Party and Protest guide at
www.schnews.org.uk/pap/guide.htm - it's updated every week, has
sections on regular events, local events, protest camps and
more...

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