On this morning’s BBC Today programme, Dr Clare Gerada, Chair of the Royal College of GPs from 2010 to 2013, was questioned by John Humphrys about plans to have all our medical information stored on one giant NHS database. In other words, the details of every private conversation we have with our doctor will be stored for others to look at.
Throughout most of the interview (listen here at 1h13) Dr Gerada attempted to convince listeners that their data would be in safe hands and that medical information could not be linked to named individuals. That said, Humphrys appeared to elicit from her that at some stage of the data collection process, that information would not be entirely anonymous.
So, for much of the interview Dr Gerada was not entirely convincing in the reassurances about the safety of our most private information.
At the end of the interview, however, she dropped a bombshell.
She told John Humphrys that had the proposed database been in place 50 years ago then the whole thalidomide disaster might have been spotted much earlier. Anyone who was alive at the time will remember the devastating and shocking repercussions that flowed from the thalidomide scandal.
The point is, if you have a compelling piece of evidence or a case study like this, don’t leave it until the very end of the interview before you get around to mentioning it. I’ve no doubt that John Humphrys would have liked to have followed up on this and obtained more information about how an NHS database, had it been in place at the time, could have lessened the terrible extent of the thalidomide catastrophe.
As it was, however, he was running out of time. The programme clearly had to move onto the next item and so what might have been a most productive line of questioning from Dr Gerada’s point of view didn’t take place.
The lesson is: if you have a very compelling or glaring example to give or story to tell, that convincingly backs up the main points you are trying to make, don’t leave it until the very end of the interview to mention. Make sure you get to it in your very first answer.
Had Dr Gerada done so, she would have held the audience’s attention from the very beginning as she explained how the database will benefit patients.
As it was, for much of the interview she simply came across as another spokesperson for Big Brother.