THE Government yesterday delayed the introduction of the NHS digital database which will collect and then sell your “pseudonymised” GP records to private companies.

It sounds horrendous, but it probably isn’t – it is just that the Government has done an appalling job in introducing it. It has not attempted to explain the new system at all and in the vacuum, all sorts of suspicion have grown whereas really the Government needed to nurture an atmosphere of trust.

There is much to be suspicious about: who will buy this data, how will they use it, how secure are people’s personal details? Perhaps most pertinently after a major crash yesterday brought down even the websites of the Government and Amazon, can we guarantee that “pseudonymised” data will always remain anonymised?

The Government also needs to sell the positive story about the proposals, about how by getting private firms to analyse anonymous public data they will be able to spot – and respond to – otherwise invisible health trends.

A similar system – the GP Extraction Service – has been running for 10 years, and it was by studying the data that someone realised that dexamethasone was having an unexpectedly beneficial effect on many Covid patients. That has helped turn the tide on the pandemic.

There may be a good story here, but the Government must be open, honest and transparent if it wants to take people with it.