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GPs buried under trusts' workload dump

Just because you're paranoid...

Dinah's realises the extent of her home town's surveillance network. And she's been followed by the police...

Dinah's realises the extent of her home town's surveillance network. And she's been followed by the police...


Police follow me to work. I'm hands free on phone. What have I done? Do they know I'm telling my 11-year-old to avoid detention today or do they think I'm discussing patient-identifiable information? Am I paranoid?

Practice manager reassures me. Yes, Summary Care Record is viewed with suspicion by many patients and GPs but we passed PCT IT security audit last week and are officially low risk for confidentiality breaches. Have a coffee, stop worrying.

Not convinced, look up ‘Echelon' on internet. It's worse than I thought. Every email, mobile conversation and fax can be scrutinised by intelligence network. Someone's definitely listening. Text 14-year-old with reminder about sports kit.

Surgery – various patients depressed, one (PHQ score 17) convinced he's been followed by police for three months, he hardly dares leave the house. What can I say? Prescribe antidepressants and refer for counselling. Mobile rings – 14-year-old – why did I text? Phone rang during lesson and now he has detention, obviously my fault.


PBC – Health Improvement Group. Meeting with borough council about demographic data. Apparently Sedgefield is most advanced local authority nationally, signed up to loads of databases, including satellite surveillance. We see maps showing areas of deprived housing linked with risk of domestic fire hazard.

They have more than 80 CCTV cameras and plan links to automatic numberplate recognition. They will map practice boundaries too. Feel alarmed – an incredibly detailed picture of our population, but how will it help commission services?

Home – laughter echoes from upstairs: all three kids in their rooms talking to computers. X-Box, MSN, facebook. There's a huge world out there, electronic messages shooting all over the place like invisible fireworks, how can I protect them?

Apparently there are plans to insert adverts into online games. Maybe I should enlist IT support in devising health-related messages including ‘turn this computer off and take some exercise' or ‘have you done your homework?'. Note: agenda for Health Improvement group…


Surgery – my friend Mr Paranoid returns – counsellor has really helped, he's much happier, had things out of proportion and is spending less time on internet. Interrupted by mobile – police need a statement. Feel slightly weak.

Drink three coffees before policeman turns up (can he tell I'm shaking?). He just needs to finish some records; I'd forgotten I was involved in hunting for my friend's lost toddler in Durham at the weekend. I gave her description to the police who contacted CCTV control and all cameras were trained on to the Market Place.

They found her in minutes, all thanks to Big Brother…

Dr Dinah Roy is a GP in Spennymoor, chair of Sedgefield PBC group and co-PEC chair of County Durham PCT


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