The NHS strategy to set up electronic patient records is unethical and will lead to growing privacy abuses, according to a leading think-tank for internet policy.
The Foundation for Information Policy Research (FIPR) has called for much greater privacy protection for patients' medical information in a response to a NHS consultation.
The think-tank warns that the creation of a single electronic database of patient records would create extreme temptation for abuse "both in the sense of unauthorised access and of authorised access being extended to more and more interests".
It argues that an existing "clearing" database that records patient details and payments for all hospital treatment, together with other medical databases available to civil servants, contains enough information to identify the vast majority of patients.
FIPR chairman Ross Anderson said: "Patients entrust some of their most sensitive personal information to their doctors.
"NHS managers should not be trying to undermine that trust by spreading identifiable patient data around the health service bureaucracy and the civil service."
A telephone authentication pilot in one health authority exposed 30 phone calls per week made under false pretences.
This suggests that over 200,000 attempts are made every year to get health information on patients by investigators who call up pretending to be doctors or administrators.
"The NHS must modernise its systems to protect, rather than undermine, patients' privacy," said Anderson. "Otherwise they put at risk the trust between patient and doctor that is vital for effective healthcare."
The FIPR also warned that, while the current strategy focuses on improving data flows between clinicians and administrators, it appears to do little to improve patients' experience.
Its response stated: "If the NHS were as patient-centred as ministers claim it to be, then email would have been introduced first to enable patients to communicate with their doctors and then to enable doctors to communicate with each other, and finally to enable doctors to communicate with the Department of Health.
"The fact that matters have been engineered the other way round is telling."
FIPR is a not-for-profit think-tank which studies the interaction between IT, government, business and civil society in the UK.
Cotton seedling freezes to death as Chang'e-4 shuts down for the Moon's 14-day lunar night
Fortnite easily out-earns PUBG, Assassin's Creed Odyssey and Red Dead Redemption 2 in 2018
Meteor showers as a service will be visible for about 100 kilometres in all directions
Saturn's rings only formed in the past 100 million years, suggests analysis of Cassini space probe data
New findings contradict conventional belief that Saturn's rings were formed along with the planet about 4.5 billion years ago