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Miliband promises public service data revolution

11/02/14

Labour leader Ed Miliband has vowed that a Labour will put people fully in charge of data about their own lives, saying: "Information is power."

In a keynote speech promising a "new culture" for public services in England, Miliband announced three specific initiatives to increase the release of information:

* New powers for people to "track their case" - in the same way that private sector customers are able to track their online shopping orders. The right would cover common experiences such as an application for a parking permit and reporting a crime to the police.

* New opportunities for parents to tap into real time data in schools, to check on their child's progress throughout the year. Miliband said some schools already share information with parents all year round - not simply in an end of term report, or at parent evenings - but others did not.

* New powers for patients to gain access to their own their health records - again, something permitted by some GPs, but not all.

Miliband said: "We should change the assumption about who owns access to information because information is power. And if we care about unequal power, we should care about unequal access to information.
“From schools to the NHS to local government, there is an extraordinary amount of information about users of public services.

"But the working assumption is still that people only get access to it when the professionals say it is OK or when people make a legal request. Our assumption should be the opposite."

Miliband acknowledged that the current government had promised to ensure people had "the right to access your own health records, swiftly and effectively."

But he added: "We should go beyond that. Take education. Schools collect huge amounts of information on our kids. The old assumption is that it gets shared with us once or twice a year at a parents' evening. But this is a very old fashioned assumption."

And he said: "Just as with the best private sector companies, we can "track our order", so too in the public sector we should be able to "track our case". Whether it is an application for a parking permit or when you have been a victim of a crime. Boston, in the United States, pioneered that kind of service a few years ago."

The Labour leader said Labour-run Birmingham City Council had created an app for a mobile phone that performed the same task.

And he argued: "If it can be done by one local council, it should be possible in every Government department."

Meanwhile, GPs in Newcastle were leading the way in putting patients with diabetes, cancer or Parkinson's in touch with others with the same chronic conditions.

Miliband said: "With the political will, and a small change to the existing information made available to GPs, we could make that possible in every GP's surgery across our country. And that is what a Labour government would do."

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