latest health care news


Accredited safe havens replicate the worst of, warns watchdog

The new accredited safe havens (Ash) scheme will see confidential medical data housed in a network of regional centres across the country, in proposals that have been criticised for being an attempt to reintroduce a national database of medical records.

Ash would see medical data harvested from GP and hospital records covering the entire population, including information about health conditions as well as smoking and drinking habits, and uploaded to one of the new ‘accredited safe havens’. Medical researchers and NHS managers would then be granted access to this information for their work.

According to the Department of Health, Ash is only intended to provide access to records that have been stripped of all personal details.

However Healthwatch England has raised concerns that this new system replicates the worst of the scheme, the postponed plan to digitise all medical records in Britain and store them in a single database.

Privacy campaigners have concerns that Ash revives talk of “pseudonymised information” being extracted from medical records. This is where some personal identifiers are removed but not enough to make information completely anonymous.

Healthwatch says that under the current plans, the Ash programme will go ahead without the additional assurances provided for by health secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Anna Bradley, chair of Healthwatch England, said: "We applaud the secretary of state for taking the time to listen to and address patients' concerns over The assurances he put in place gave Healthwatch England more confidence in the way GP records will be used and how the right to object to having our own files shared will be implemented.

"But these additional assurances must be extended to all health and social care data sharing initiatives otherwise the Accredited Safe Havens project will end up being seen as 'Big Brother's little brother'.

"The public need to know that if they decide to opt-out of one medical record sharing programme, their wishes will be respected across all such projects." was delayed earlier this year just before it was due to be rolled out nationwide after privacy concerns over what the patient data might be used for and where it might end up. It would have seen medical records uploaded from almost 9,000 GPs surgeries.

It was announced yesterday that up to 265 GP surgeries under six CCGs in England will take part in a trial of Health bosses are calling it the ‘pathfinder stage’, in order to develop the programme into an eventual national database.

GPs voted against being rolled out nationwide on the grounds that patients had to opt out of the system rather than opting in. They also called for any data leaving surgeries to be anonymised first. The NHS however has decided patients will still have to opt out rather than opt in to the scheme.

Tim Kelsey, NHS England national director for patients and information, said: “Since February we have been listening to the views of the public, GPs and other important stakeholders to hear their concerns about data sharing.

“We have heard, loud and clear, that we need to be clearer about the programme and that we need to provide more support to GPs to communicate the benefits and the risks of data sharing with their patients, including their right to opt out.”

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at


There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment


national health executive tv

more videos >

featured articles

View all News

last word

Haseeb Ahmad: ‘We all have a role to play in getting innovations quicker’

Haseeb Ahmad: ‘We all have a role to play in getting innovations quicker’

Haseeb Ahmad, president of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), sits down with National Health Executive as part of our Last Word Q&A series. Would you talk us throu more > more last word articles >

health service focus

View all News


NHS England dementia director prescribes rugby for mental health and dementia patients

23/09/2019NHS England dementia director prescribes rugby for mental health and dementia patients

Reason to celebrate as NHS says watching rugby can be good for your mental ... more >
Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

21/06/2019Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

Taking time to say thank you is one of the hidden pillars of a society. Bei... more >


Mike Farrar, Swim England - Last Word

07/12/2019Mike Farrar, Swim England - Last Word

Mike Farrar Chairperson of Swim England Would you talk us through... more >

the scalpel's daily blog

Transforming services: We need a left shift not a left drift

16/01/2020Transforming services: We need a left shift not a left drift

Dean Royles, strategic workforce advisor at Skills for Health and co-author of ‘An Introduction to Human Resource Management,’ discusses the need to move the treat... more >
read more blog posts from 'the scalpel' >

editor's comment

25/09/2017A hotbed of innovation

This edition of NHE comes hot on the heels of this year’s NHS Expo which, once again, proved to be a huge success at Manchester Central. A number of announcements were made during the event, with the health secretary naming the second wave of NHS digital pioneers, or ‘fast followers’, which follow the initial global digital exemplars who were revealed at the same show 12 months earlier.  Jeremy Hunt also stated that by the end of 2018 – the 70th birthday... read more >