1. Murray, Peter J.

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Nurses in the UK generally are not noted for being very computer-literate, so it is all the more surprising that the Annual Conference of the Nursing Specialist Group (NSG) of the British Computer Socicty is in its 12th year. The theme of this year's conference, held at Aston University, Birmingham, England, September 21-22, 1995, and attended by about 90 delegates, was "Private Lives on Public Property-How secret is Our Health Service?" The conference examined a range of issues pertinent not only to nurses and midwives directly involved in information management in clinical or administrative roles, but also to teachers of nurses and midwives.


Speakers were from a range of organizations, including the Computers in Teaching Initiative, the Ethics Division of the British Medical Association, The Office of the Data Protection Registrar, and the Information Management Group of the National Health Service Executive. Issues of security of data storage and transmission, and of the needs of clinical staff to be able to access relevant patient information were major themes of the presentations, although there was also some discussion of the rights of the individual to privacy versus the "public good" and society's need for information (note: the laws and culture within the United Kingdom regarding privacy, etc., are markedly different from those in the United States). The UK government's consultation paper on patient information, which assumes that patients give "implicit consent" for sharing of information was widely criticized as being "fundamentally flawed"; a new European Union Directive states clearly that a data subject's consent must be freely given and informed.


Paula Procter, of Sheffield University, provided a useful critique of the role of nursing and midwifery teachers, suggesting that they generally are not computer literate and so not competent to meet the challenges presented in preparing nurses to deal with the safe and secure use of patient information held on computers and transmitted electronically. Some of the conference reports and papers should soon be available on the NSG Web site:


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Peter J. Murray