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26.02.14

‘Confusion and suspicion’ – MPs investigate care.data

The government’s policies on the sharing of patient data came under fierce political criticism yesterday in the House of Commons and later in front of the health select committee.

The Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) angered MPs at the evidence session yesterday by suggesting that information on external organisations acquiring data from its predecessor organisation, the NHS Information Centre, could not be retrieved.

Although the HSCIC itself will publish all data requests and releases, Max Jones, director of information and data services, said that it would be impossible to produce any information before the current centre was set up in April 2013.

Referring to press reports this week, Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston said that in January 2012 HES data covering 47 million people from 1989 to 2010 were handed to the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries for setting insurance premiums.

Committee chair Stephen Dorrell is writing to the health secretary Jeremy Hunt for more details about the sharing of patient data since 2010.

Tim Kelsey, NHS England’s national director for patients and information, told the hostile MPs that communication and PR problems with care.data had led to “confusion, suspicion and a level of anxiety” – and that it was his job to solve this.

He said: “I’m not sure we have made the case for the benefits of this. This is not a PR exercise, nor is it a stunt. It is about the future of the NHS.”

Labour said there had been a “spectacular collapse” in public support for care.data, but shadow health secretary Andy Burnham told Hunt: “I will offer him a solution. If the government work with us to introduce a series of tough new safeguards to protect patients, we will work with the Secretary of State to help rescue this failing plan.

“Those safeguards include tougher penalties for the misuse of data, Secretary of State sign-off on any application to access data, full transparency on organisations granted access, and new opt-out arrangements by phone or online.”

Discussing the care.data ‘pause’, Hunt said: “NHS England was absolutely right to have a pause so that we ensure that we give people reassurance. This programme is too important to get wrong. Of course we are having a difficult debate, but its purpose is to carry the public with us so that we can go on to make important scientific discoveries.

“We will continue to work hard to ensure that this important scheme goes ahead.”

The answers given by Jones, Kelsey and health minister Dr Dan Poulterwere scrutinised closely on social media. A selection of tweets from during the hearing and after it can be found below.

(Library image of Stephen Dorrell MP: PA Wire)

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@nationalhealthexecutive.com

Comments

Rob   03/03/2014 at 19:32

One of your tweets states "I just opted out of having my data uploaded" WRONG you cannot opt out of having your data uploaded Your data is still uploaded but there is a flag in the record which says 'Please don't use this data' You are opting out of the data being used for the specified purpose. It can still be sold and passed on to anyone else.

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