GP records could be shared for research

PATIENTS could find their GP health records shared for data research this year.

People can opt out of the Government scheme but will only have four weeks to do so following a leaflet drop this month.

The government will spend £1m sending a patient information leaflet about the controversial programme to every household in England.

The A5 leaflet will not be addressed to anybody in the household, but will clearly indicate that it is from the NHS and explain how people can opt-out of their data being extracted.

Patients will have a minimum of four weeks from the time of the leaflet drop to be able to object before extracts begin, but can also opt-out after they have commenced.

Concerns have been raised that the leaflet will be mistaken for junk mail and it’s significance lost.

The programme involves taking a large monthly dataset from all GP practices covering patient demographics, events, referrals and prescriptions.

This will be linked with Hospital Episode Statistics and other data-sets to create new Care Episode Statistics, giving a more holistic view of patient journeys in the NHS.

The Government has said that when data is released the identity of specific patients is protected.

Some GP’s had advocated a mass opt-out of the scheme until they felt patients were properly informed.

GPs have already been sent posters and leaflets about the programme to use in their practices and information about the scheme has been sent to 350,000 charities to share with their members. There will also be a social media campaign.

Dr Tony Calland, Chair of the British Medical Association’s Medical Ethics Committee, said: “It is vital people are fully informed about what their data will be used for and how they can object to its use if they wish to. Although data is needed so that commissioning groups can effectively plan local services, it is crucial that patients have confidence.”