Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Monday, June 16, 2008

OA to UK surgical death rates, with restrictions

Michael Cross, NHS plans to reveal surgeons' deathrates online, The Guardian, June 12, 2008. (See also the accompanying post on the Free Our Data blog.)

... From next year, the NHS Choices website will reveal the deathrates of patients undergoing major surgery at NHS hospitals in England. The data will reveal which surgeons are most likely to have patients die under their knives. ...

[W]hile the strategy enthuses about the power of information in the new web world, it makes no mention of allowing re-use in mashups and commercial ventures. The site's terms and conditions themselves suggest such use is out of bounds: "For your own personal non-commercial use you may copy, download, adapt or print off copies of the materials, information, data and other content included on NHS Choices ('NHS Choices content'). You will need to obtain permission in writing from us before you make any other use of NHS Choices content."

NHS Scotland, which in 2006 set a precedent by revealing statistics, has similar conditions. Its copyright notice allows information to be reproduced for use within NHS Scotland or educational purposes, but not by commercial organisations.

While there is no sign of anyone wanting to re-use surgeons' mortality data in commercial or other products, the NHS's policy appears at odds with the government's commitment to last summer's Power of Information review, which called on public bodies to allow free re-use of data. ...