The government has announced new plans to open up the NHS to the life-science industry. The Prime Minister said the health service should be working hand in glove with the industry and that could involve the sharing of the huge wealth of patient data held by the NHS. The idea is said to be win-win; supporting the industry, which is one of the most important in the UK worth £50bn a year and employing 160,000 people and at the same time will get new drugs in to NHS hospitals more quickly. But at what cost to our privacy? Drugs companies already have a certain amount of access to anonymised patient data held by hospitals, but the proposals would widen this to included GP records. Names would still be withheld, but critics argue that data such as postcodes could still be accessed making links to individuals easy to make. We are open with our doctors because we're confident that our privacy will be protected, but with high profile data breaches from organisations such as banks, local authorities and various government departments, are we really happy having such sensitive material, including things like lifestyles, shared? And what about the issues of informed consent? Should drug companies be allowed to use the data in fields that some people might find morally objectionable - for example in foetal stem cell research? Is it our duty to share this information freely, not only for the potential benefit of our nearest and dearest, but also all of human kind? Or is this a commercial Trojan Horse being driven right in to the heart of the NHS for the benefit of the multi-billion pound drug industry and its shareholders?
Witnesses: Professor John Harris -University of Manchester, Medical Ethicist, Sir Mark Walport -Director, Welcome Trust, Nick Pickles -Director, Big Brother Watch, Rebecca Wood -Chief Executive, Alzheimer's Research UK.
Combative, provocative and engaging debate chaired by Michael Buerk with Clifford Longley, Kenan Malik, Michael Portillo and Melanie Phillips.