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19.02.14

NHS England postpones care.data until autumn

The roll-out of NHS England’s patient data sharing scheme is to be delayed until the autumn.

Care.data was meant to begin in April, but there have been widespread concerns over NHS England’s communications campaign. Not everyone has received leaflets explaining the project, which were meant to be sent to every household in England.

The Royal College of GPs, the British Medical Association, Healthwatch England and the Information Commissioners’ Office all raised concerns about patient privacy and the need for clearer explanation of the scheme.

Patients’ records will be ‘pseudonymised’ and shared to improve care and to allow drugs companies to improve research and develop new treatment. Those who do not wish to take part must visit their GP to opt out.

An NHS England spokesman said: “To ensure that the concerns are met, NHS England will begin collecting data from GP surgeries in the autumn, instead of April, to allow more time to build understanding of the benefits of using the information, what safeguards are in place, and how people can opt out if they choose to.”

Professor Nigel Mathers, honorary secretary of the RCGP, said: “We would like to thank NHS England for listening to the concerns of RCGP members and for acting so quickly to announce this pause. The extra time will provide it with the chance to redouble its efforts to inform every patient of their right to opt out, every GP of how the programme will work, and the nation of what robust safeguards will be in place to protect the security of people's data.”

Dr ChaandNagpaul of the British Medical Association said: “We are pleased that NHS England has listened to the concerns. With just weeks to go until the uploading of patient data was scheduled to begin, it was clear from GPs on the ground that patients remain inadequately informed about the implications of care.data.”

Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch, said: “NHS England has failed to properly communicate to patients or GPs what this new database involves, how it affects our medical records and what the risks are.

“The scheme's benefits are no justification for not properly informing people what will happen and a delay is the right thing to do.

“Our medical records contain some of our most private information and any changes to how they are used should not be rushed into.”

For more on the care.data debate, see the Jan/Feb edition of NHE.

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at opinion@publicsectorexecutive.com

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