27 June 2021 |

Over the past year, for a number of reasons, I have visited local hospitals as an outpatient. Nothing untoward and nothing, so far, serious; just part of the regular testing processes set up because GP surgeries have become clogged up with issues facing their patients. On the whole, I have received appointments within a relatively short time, and always been treated with a friendly smile and with respect. As you would expect! (Although having been brought up with a vision of hospitals gained from Carry on Matron, I have sort of assumed Hattie Jacques might be hiding behind the drugs cabinet.) The expertise and customer care has been first rate and although the hospitals visited have sometimes needed a paint job, in the main, the staff I have met have been dedicated and professional. I have been impressed. Even with Brighton Hospital, which when I visited looked like a building site, the care by the staff was first rate.

Like most people, I am hugely proud of the NHS and see it as part of what it means to be British. I well remember the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games with its spinning hospital beds and dancing nurses. As a nation we say a “Thank You” to all the staff who have put their own lives at risk in recent times, and have maintained a service to be proud of despite, not because, of the politicians. Yet, under cover of the pandemic, there are yet more moves to undermine the NHS even further by the giving away of patients’ personal medical histories. Opposed by some GPs, and without a discussion in parliament, the personal files of each and everyone are going to be made available to the market and a source of profit to big corporations. You may not have heard about this but that may be because the move is being done quietly and without public debate.

If you don’t want your personal records to be sold off, you will need to write to your GP practice and ask them not to do so by submitting a special document.

Most people know my politics by now – even as I try to hide them in sermons etc – but I feel strongly that everyone should be given the opportunity to have a say about their personal details. Perhaps you don’t mind who sees what medications you’ve had in the past, or what your visits to hospitals have meant; there’s nothing that I am ashamed of in my files and I am sure they will make dull reading, but I think I should be asked!

In Genesis the writer explores what it means to be human, made in the image of God, and a child of God. Later, in Exodus, when the Israelites became slaves to power and influence, God led them out of bondage into freedom. Jesus too offers us a freedom from the forces of darkness. The story of God’s dealing with us does not imagine that the heart of who we are, our personal details, might be, so lightly, given away to faceless companies for them to make yet more money out of us.