Stevenage and Hitchin residents react to NHS plan to share patients’ medical records

NHS England has commissioned the project

NHS England has commissioned the project - Credit: Archant

A scheme which will allow organisations outside of the NHS access to patients’ medical records has caused concern.

NHS England has commissioned a project which will see a national database created holding information about the care patients have received from all the different parts of the health service, including hospital and GP practices.

While patients’ names will not be used, their date of birth, full postcode, NHS number and gender will be used to link records in a secure system.

While the NHS has said it will not be selling data, any organisation can make an application for identifiable or potentially-identifiable information and each application will be considered individually.

Patients need to opt out of the scheme if they do not want their confidential information to be shared.

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Stevenage resident Jean Day said: “Everybody is supposed to have received a leaflet explaining it, but none of my friends know anything about it. I think people should be made aware. I called my doctors’ surgery and they said to write a letter and say I wanted to opt out.”

Alan Wells, from Hitchin, said: “I don’t trust it. I would be comfortable if it was kept within the NHS but I don’t want my information given to outside organisations. I would be a perfect target for private companies selling products. I’m concerned I’m going to be bombarded with phone calls and letter from people trying to sell me things.”

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Adam McDowall, also from the town, added: “I work with databases for a living, and even if we ignore the shocking track record UK governments have when it comes to large scale databases and the security, privacy and integrity of them, the idea of my private medical information being available to any number of private organisations makes me extremely uncomfortable.”

Information from GP practices was due to be brought into the database this spring but, such is the concern from patients and GPs, it has now been delayed until the autumn.

Tim Kelsey, national director for patients and information at NHS England, said: “We have been told very clearly that patients need more time to learn about the benefits of sharing information and their right to object to their information being shared. That is why we are extending the public awareness campaign by an extra six months.”

Professor Nigel Mathers, honorary secretary of the Royal College of General Practitioners (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.”

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