Stop patient data collection and sharing program over privacy concerns, says Labor
A controversial program to collect and share NHS patient data must be halted over privacy concerns, the Labor Party in government urges.
The party echoed medical groups in protesting that people have been kept in the dark about the use of treatment, referral and appointment information over the past 10 years.
The data will be anonymized and collecting it “will save lives” by helping develop cures for serious illnesses, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer, according to health chiefs.
But there are criticisms that it can then be shared with third parties – as well as a lack of public awareness that patients only have until June 23 to opt out.
Now Labor has written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock and NHS Digital, the body directly responsible, urging them to put the brakes on.
“I echo concerns across the healthcare industry that the lack of transparency about which organizations can access this personal data is of deep concern,” said Alex Norris, party spokesperson for public health. .
“Patients need to be fully informed about what data is accessible and by whom, so I wrote to NHS Digital asking them to suspend their next GP data collection until these issues are resolved. “
Last week, the British Medical Association (BMA) condemned the government’s explanations on the issue as “completely inadequate, confusing both patients and general practitioners”.
“People need to fully understand what this program means and, most importantly, how to opt out of sharing their data, if that’s what they want to do,” said Dr Farah Jameel.
“Family physicians have a duty to their patients and have their best interests at heart – so naturally they are reluctant to comply with something that patients may not know or fully understand themselves, even if it is a legal obligation.
But an NHS Digital spokesperson said: “Patient data saves lives. We could not have delivered the Covid-19 vaccine rollout if we had not used the data to ensure we reach the entire population, prioritizing it in the most efficient way.
“The data will only be used for health and care planning and research purposes, by organizations that can demonstrate that they have an appropriate legal basis and a legitimate need to use them. “
The medical histories of more than 55 million patients will be placed in a database accessible to academic and business groups for research and planning purposes.
Records will be pulled from each GP’s office, as part of a plan announced by Mr Hancock only in April, on the NHS Digital website and on leaflets during surgeries.
The deadline to opt out is June 23, requiring patients to complete a form and return it to their family doctor.