A new play exploring privacy and security issues around the use of electronic patient records begins a national tour of schools this week.

Breathing Country, staged by the award-winning Y Touring Theatre Company, aims to raise young people’s awareness of the new NHS Electronic Patient Record and its use in medical research.

There will also be a public performance of the play at the Science Museum on 29 September.

Each performance of the play will be followed by a debate to encourage the young people in the audience to voice their own thoughts and concerns on the use of personal health information. Their feedback is to be collated and disseminated to policy makers and public health organisations (Department of Health, Wellcome, NHS, Research Council and NHS Connecting for Health) as part of wider drive to get the public actively engaged in the debate around the subject.

Breathing Country, a new play by award-winning writer Ben Musgrave, tells the story of two teenagers Simon and Lizzie who are growing up in a world where technology makes privacy impossible. Simon broadcasts every detail of his life on social networking sites while Lizzie desperately clings to her ever diminishing privacy.

Meanwhile, Lizzie's father, Richard, Head of Communications at the Department of Health, aggressively promotes the new NHS Electronic Patient Record which will revolutionise healthcare in the UK and create 'the most fascinatingly detailed picture of a country anyone has ever seen'. Simultaneously Janet, a doctor and researcher, is eagerly looking forward to the day when patients' records are easily accessible, and research is made easier and faster by access to a huge range of records. But would you risk your privacy for the greater good? Can technology really be reliable? Or is the biggest risk to your data's security other people?

This drama-of-debate project has been developed in partnership with The Royal Academy of Engineering and is supported by the Wellcome Trust in partnership with the Medical Research Councils and Central YMCA, the UK’s leading activity for health charity.

Head of Public Engagement at The Royal Academy of Engineering, Dr Lesley Paterson, says: "Our relationships with our doctors and the NHS will be fundamentally shaped by advances in IT engineering through the use of electronic records for patient care and medical research. It is therefore crucial that young people, as well as adults, are able to explore and voice their thoughts on how we will use such IT systems and to consider the societal and cultural implications ".

A performance open to adults takes place at the Science Museum’s Dana Centre on 29 September, 7-9pm. For tickets and more information, visit:  www.danacentre.org.uk/events

Breathing Country was developed in consultation with an advisory panel consisting of:

-Gus Hosein, Visiting Fellow, London School of Economics

-Martyn Thomas FREng, Director and Principal Consultant, Martyn Thomas Associates.

-Professor Simon Wessely, MD FMedSci, Professor of Epidemiological and Liaison Psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, and Honorary -Consultant Psychiatrist at King’s and Maudsley Hospitals

-Dr Marlene Winfield OBE, Head of Public Engagement for the National Programme for IT in the NHS

-Dr Trevor Yellon, General Practitioner, The Killick Street Community Health Centre, Kings Cross

Notes for editors

  1. About Y Touring

    Y Touring Theatre Company is an operation of Central YMCA, the UK's leading activity for health charity and the world's first YMCA. The theatre company is an ITC/Equity registered, award winning professional theatre company, established in 1989.

    Y Touring’s audiences are young people and adults. Its mission is to produce quality theatre, new media, drama workshops and educational resources that enable audiences to explore and debate difficult and sensitive health based issues. Y Touring pioneered Theatre of Debate® and continues to use this format in many of its productions.
    “Theatre of Science at its very best” (Professor Lewis Wolpert, The Independent on Sunday)
    For further information on Y Touring, please visit:  www.theatreofdebate.com
    For further information on Central YMCA, please visit  www.ymca.co.uk
  2. About The Royal Academy of Engineering

    Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship – including the UK’s most eminent engineers – provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain’s engineering community.

For more information please contact

For all media enquiries, please contact Divya Kohli, PR Manager, Central YMCA on 07930 410 387

For image requests, further information about Breathing Country performances in schools and at the Dana Centre, and Y Touring Theatre Company, please contact:

Eleanor Lang, General Manager at Y Touring on 020 7520 3097

For information about the Science Museum’s Dana Centre please contact: Andrew Marcus, Press Officer, Science Museum on 020 7942 4357