"Restricted access to NHS Lothian Web"

About: NHS Lothian

(as the patient),

When trying to gain access to NHS Lothian web site today (18 Feb 2013) I received message saying that site uses cookies.

However there is only one option: OK. If you do not wish to accept this option, which I do not, then you cannot get access to the website.

This is wrong for a publicly funded website. For security and other reasons I never accept cookies but on other sites you can still gain access, although sometimes in restricted form, to the web site.

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Response from Stuart Wilson, Director of Communications and Public Affairs, NHS Lothian

In May 2012 a "Cookie Notification" window was deployed to all our NHS Lothian websites in order to meet the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003. In 2009 this Directive was amended by Directive 2009/136/EC. This included a change to Article 5(3) of the E-Privacy Directive requiring consent for storage or access to information stored on a subscriber or users terminal equipment.

Governments in Europe had until 25 May 2011 to implement these changes into their own law. The UK introduced the amendments on 25 May 2011 through The Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) (Amendment) Regulations 2011 and we had until 25th May 2012 to adhere to this law on our websites.

The current version of the NHS Lothian website has been on-line since June 2011 and until May last year our site visitors had never been notified that we put cookies on their device. As you will see when you visit our site, a notification box now appears to let our visitors know that we use cookies. These cookies are solely for the purpose of improving our website and the information that we publish on it. We do not use the information for any other purpose at all.

Currently our site visitors are unable to "Decline" the use of cookies and you must click "OK" to accept that we put cookies on your device if you want to use the NHS Lothian website. We feel that as soon as we introduce inconsistency in to whether these cookies can be placed on a visitors device it will distort our website activity reporting and we will be unable to accurately determine what areas of our website are popular and what areas are not. Our concern is that if given the option the majority of users would click the "Decline" option and therefore we would never have clear and accurate figures for our site analysis reports.

It's really important that we deliver clear and accurate information to our service users via our website and having the ability to accurately gauge our site visitor activity really helps with this.

As we feel that we are adhering to the ICO Cookie Legislation and we want to retain accurate site analysis reporting this is the option that we have chosen to adopt for the time being.

It is our experience that this stance is the same as adopted by the vast majority of public sector websites and we have no plans to change it.

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