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Meet the man behind Care.data: Tim Kelsey

Charlotte Jee | Aug. 5, 2015
Who is Tim Kelsey, the top civil servant in charge of the government's Care.data scheme?

Tone-deaf

Kelsey has consistently argued releasing data on public services will help to improve them, an idea most of us can get behind.

However he has often seemed tone-deaf to those uncomfortable with the idea of personal medical data being collected and held centrally, with any privacy or security risks that could entail.

In a 2009 article 'Long live the database state' in Prospect magazine, he said: "No one who uses a public service should be allowed to opt out of sharing their records. Nor can people rely on their record being anonymised".

It's hard to square with his comment, in front of a Parliamentary select committee in 2014: "It is absolutely fundamental that we give people the right not just to access their own data but to do as they wish with them."

Perhaps Kelsey has changed his mind on privacy and now takes concerns over Care.data more seriously.

Or maybe he has been gently encouraged to be less outspoken, both on Twitter and in the media.

Could Care.data become a success, despite its troubled birth?

It's possible, although without strong evidence individuals' data is secure and anonymised, more people are likely to choose to opt out, further weakening the scheme.

However, without proper thought put into how to improve security, rather than merely boost public awareness, it is possible the problems that surfaced when Care.data was launched will come back to haunt NHS England as it gradually starts to ramp up pilots of the scheme this year.

Either way, Kelsey will remain one to watch. The programme is his brainchild and implementing it seems to be his main mission as a public servant.

Although he is "good at managing upwards", as one source put it, and very politically astute, one question remains unanswered: what he will do if Care.data fails?

Tim Kelsey's CV

May 2012 - present: Director of patients and information, NHS England

January - May 2012: Director of transparency and open data, Cabinet Office

2010 - December 2011: Senior expert, McKinsey & Co (leading on the development of 'consumer propositions in public services to transform quality and productivity')

2006 - 2010: Chair of executive board, Dr Foster Intelligence

2000 - 2006: Chief executive, Dr Foster (founded with Roger Taylor and Roger Killen in 1999)

1995 - 1999: Deputy editor of the Insight Team, Sunday Times

1989 - 1995: Reporter, Independent on Sunday

1987 - 1989: Freelance journalist

1984 - 1987: Studied history at Magdalene College, Cambridge

1978 - 1983: Wellington College

 

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