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Last Updated: Monday, 18 December 2006, 14:30 GMT
Health, privacy and statistics
A GP writing a prescription
More or Less
Monday, 18 December, 2006
BBC Radio 4, 1630 BST
More or Less this week looked at the other side of the argument about the privacy of our health records.

There has been anxiety about how the data from the patient record database might leak, or what it could be used for.

Last week, the British Medical Association said patients should be asked to give their explicit consent before their records were put on the system, and some GPs have said they will not cooperate.

But without the statistical data that a patient record database would give us, Andrew Dilnot revealed why political promises to improve the health service might fail.

In order to have choice about where to go for the best care - a big political commitment of this government's - we need to be able to measure how well patients are treated at different hospitals or even by individual consultants.

But to do that, we also need to know patients' histories, otherwise we risk blaming a surgeon for a poor health outcome when the problem really lay in the patient's poor health history. And we might not know, for example, how successful recoveries have been if we do not monitor them, and so be unable to say how well patients were treated.

Patient choice based on quality of care needs a lot of statistical data.

More or Less makes no attempt to decide which is most important - privacy or data - but simply highlighted what may become a painful choice between them that we are yet to acknowledge.

Number art

Can numbers help to inspire art? Artist Zarah Hussain believes so.

Also this week, the Islamic art inspired by the truth of numbers.


The Census was identified by the governor of the Bank of England in reports published this week as one of the most vital pieces of information to the successful management of the economy. After a troubled Census last time (in 2001), we looked at the threats to the next one in 2011.

And whether statistics or maths can identify a hit record.

Presenter: Andrew Dilnot
Producer: Michael Blastland

BBC Radio 4's More or Less was broadcast on Monday, 18 December, 2006 at 1630 GMT.

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