DWP Experimenting With Technology To Weed Out The Sick And Disabled ? 1984 Re-Revisited ? Big Brother Reborn?

Thanks to the original Trawler for this one … haway the lasses ?

**Guess who’s working on a health data-slurping digital tool ?

Bzzt ! Nope, it’s the UK Department for Work and Pensions.

Anyone here keen to build tool to get '" Right support " for sick, disabled ?**


**_The UK’s Department for Work and Pensions is drawing up plans for an internal service that allows it to automate slurps of medical data on claimants to dole out health-related benefits.

In an ad posted on the UK’s Digital Marketplace, DWP said the work was currently in alpha and it now wanted a supplier to deliver a technical proof of concept to expose NHS data to the department’s systems.

The aim, it said, is to cut down the time and cost involved in gathering information the department needs to make a decision about “the right support” for someone with a health condition or disability.

The ad stated the DWP had already carried out proof-of-concept research with what it described as a “medical records broker”. The department declined to name this provider when asked by The Register, but the listing said Niche Health Limited – an NHS records software provider that appears to go by the name iGPR – “were engaged in the discovery phase”.

The current processes that grant DWP access to NHS data are paper-based, slow and expensive, and it wants to tap into a “growing landscape” of solutions for data sharing within and beyond the NHS, the ad stated

In addition, the department’s ad claimed that citizens don’t always know what information is needed, and GPs don’t always have details of “functional capability” – it said a digital system would speed this up and give DWP a direct line to the right professionals.

The new service aims to both digitise the current ad-hoc system for requests – which might be how a condition affects someone on a day-to-day basis – and to automate the existing process for requests for medical information, such as GP details, hospital records and conditions diagnosed.

This information is used to decide on awards for benefits like Universal Credit, Employment and Support Allowance and Personal Independence Payment, and DWP emphasised that it is shared with patient consent.

DWP said the work was being done under the “assumption” that the legal basis for data exchange would be “informed consent”, but that it “would expect design assumptions to be tested through the proof of concept phase”. The department declined to say what other legal bases it might consider.

‘GPs shouldn’t be de facto DWP assessors’

The move to link up NHS data with DWP’s benefits systems comes as the department is under fire for its fit-to-work assessments, and as the government is under growing pressure over what many see as fundamental flaws in its Universal Credit scheme.

And it follows a series of government data-handling controversies, including a Memorandum of Understanding between the NHS and the Home Office for immigration enforcement that was paused under the weight of public and political opinion.

One of the criticisms of that deal was that it risked deterring people from seeking medical attention, and Med Confidential coordinator Phil Booth warned of similar problems with DWP’s latest proposal.

“Patients must know that what they tell their doctor will never be used against them, and GPs must never become de facto DWP assessors due to ‘data sharing’,” he said. “The information patients give to their doctor must be untainted by external pressures, or people will come to harm.”

Booth also claimed that NHS doctors feel under pressure not to provide fit notes to DWP in some cases, and urged the government not to bake poor processes into an automated system.

“Automating bad processes doesn’t improve them – it makes them worse. And if it [DWP and its assessors] won’t trust the information it already gets from NHS professionals, why should DWP have even more?”

DWP declined to answer questions from El Reg on whether impact assessments, for instance on data protection, had been carried out, or whether and how a medical records broker being involved might affect the doctor-patient relationship.

However, some of the suppliers who asked questions about the contract through the Digital Marketplace appear to have picked up on the implications of the project.

“Is there an MOU [memorandum of understanding] in place between DWP & NHS regarding data sharing?” one asked. DWP said that as it was “already working with NHS Digital, this would be an extension of this work”.

The Register understands that there isn’t a specific MOU in place for data-sharing, and that any work to digitise processes for information exchange has been limited to one-off projects. Patients, for example, with a terminal illness can now ask their doctor to send a form known as DS1500 electronically.

Another supplier asked if there was a “bigger picture” of when data would be shared across government, for example with councils. But DWP said this was “out of scope” of this piece of work.

Technical spec: Open-source database tech, work in AWS cloud

In the call for proposals, DWP said that a feature team in Leeds is building a system “to capture information from citizens and present this to DWP agents”. This call is to find a supplier to develop a viable solution to build requests for medical information into the Leeds team’s system.

“DWP require an API solution/system to expose this [NHS] data,” the call document advised. “DWP are looking for direct integration if possible. A Technically Viable Product (TVP) is the outcome DWP are looking for.”

The supplier ad stated that discovery phase research had “identified current and emerging technologies to support interoperability between healthcare organisations and test the viability of automating / digitising the current manual processes that surround information requests between DWP and NHS”.

The department said the solution should use API gateway patterns, open source database technologies, Node.js and Java, and be containerised.

It should also should be built on cloud agnostic tools that can be deployed to an AWS platform “without much change”, so it can be easily ported into DWP’s Health AWS Cloud, where DWP’s applications to support multiple benefit lines are hosted.

DWP said the solution would be assessed on whether it aligned with “DWP Blueprint patterns” – but when asked for more details, the department said it was an internal document that couldn’t be shared, and that any solution with a DWP environment “should follow a Micro services and Event driven architecture”.

The department said the outcome of the work didn’t have to be production ready but would need to “be in a state that DWP can take it forward and develop and deliver it - we are looking for something beyond technical options with illustrative prototypes / wireframes”.

The project, which closed for applications last night, is offered for a 12 week contract, to start by 18 March. No budget was given for the work._**

1984 ?

Nothing on what’s in the pipeline !

Whatever happened to doctor’s confidentiality?!


Confidentiality is an important ethical and legal duty for doctors, but it is not absolute. > Doctors may disclose personal information without breaching duties of confidentiality under certain circumstances> , such as when the disclosure is of overall benefit to a patient who lacks capacity to consent.

Under certain circumstances ?

When the State itself demands such information ?

The interest of the State will always overide the interest of the individual.

Standard exam question back in the late 1960s / early 1970s.

How about the DWP got communication right within it’s own organisation first! DLA didn’t share info with PIP for example - a new claim had to be made, all info transferred to new forms. Copies of medical stuff already on file had to be resubmitted. UC the same - proof of identity and address, even though the DWP were contacting the applicant at their address …

The PIP and work capability assessments say they aren’t interested in a person’s diagnosis but how it affects them. The “functional capacity” of one person with a disability/illness/disease is very different from another. Severity, other conditions, pain threshold, how long the person has had the condition all come into play.

Once again, the assumption is that many disabled and sick people are skivving and should be working and we need to catch them out. In the process let’s spend lots of money devising ways to do this … money which could be spent on supporting people who are in need of help.

But then, I’m preaching to the converted aren’t I?!


Yep … as for the origin of the new " 1984 " DWP , look no further … the USA :

How Britain’s new welfare state was born in the USA.

The main themes of David Cameron’s ‘big society’ are becoming clear – as is the influence of Republican political thinking.

**DWP plans to obtain people’s medical data will deter benefit claimants accessing healthcare, doctors warn.

GPs and charities say plans resemble controversial data-sharing scheme between Home Office and NHS and risks putting medical staff in " Invidious " position of benefits assessors.**


Doctors have warned that benefit claimants could be deterred from accessing healthcare after it emerged that the government is to start accessing medical records as part of the welfare assessment process.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is in the process of creating a system to more quickly access people’s health data to help them to determine how much welfare support they are entitled to, including automating “routine” requests for medical information.

GPs and charities said the plans resemble the controversial data-sharing scheme between the Home Office and the NHS, which prompted outrage after it emerged some immigrants were subsequently afraid to access healthcare, ultimately forcing the government to end the policy.

A job advert posted by the DWP shows that a team in Leeds is building a system to “capture information from citizens and present this to DWP agents”. The work is proceeding on the assumption that the consent of patients would make the system lawful, although this has not been confirmed.

In response, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, expressed concern that the process would damage the doctor-patient relationship, and “deter vulnerable people from seeking medical assistance when they need it”.

“We do not hold our patients’ confidential data to help other organisations check their eligibility for welfare, their immigration status, or any other function not related to their health and wellbeing," she said.

“If the reports are true, the DWP, like the Home Office before them, must not consider GP patient data as an open resource to support them to carry out their duties. We are doctors, whose first interest is the care of our patient: we are not border guards, and we are not benefits assessors.”

Head of policy and profile at Law Centres Network, Nimrod Ben-Cnaan, said the sharing of people’s medical records would breach patient confidentiality and put GPs and other medical staff in the “invidious” position of benefits assessors.

“Less than a year ago, the government decided that even its hostile environment policies did not justify sharing migrants’ personal data between NHS and the Home Office, except in very specific circumstances,” he added.

“Now, however, the government plans to share NHS patient data of people who claim health-related benefits with DWP, and to do so automatically. What has changed?

“It is legally and ethically questionable […] We call on Parliament to take an urgent look at this programme and other planned sharing of NHS patient data with other public bodies.”

Genevieve Edwards, director of external affairs at the MS Society, said that while it was encouraging that the DWP was looking at ways to change the evidence gathering process, the proposals were being considered with an “apparent lack of engagement and transparency”.

“Rather than the DWP or assessors being able to automatically access records, we’d want to see a system which would allow GPs to send data on request, with the patient’s informed consent at every step in the process,” she said.

“Any changes to the data collecting mechanisms must be fully consulted on with disabled people, healthcare professionals and charities.”

A DWP spokesperson said: “No information will be accessed without explicit and informed consent, and to suggest otherwise would misleading. Some patients are happy to share information which is why we are able to use their information to help them claim health related benefits most quickly.

“Anything to make this an easier and quicker experience for claimants would help them, which is why we are simply exploring potential options to improve the current system.”