U-turn over NHS database opt-out: Victory for privacy campaign as hunt backs down
00:29 GMT, 26 April 2013
00:29 GMT, 26 April 2013
Patients are to be given the right to opt out of an NHS database logging details of drinking habits, waist sizes and family medical histories.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will today announce that – following protests from privacy campaigners – people will be allowed to instruct their GPs not to hand over their records to a centralised information bank.
When details of the scheme emerged earlier this year, ministers insisted there would be no opportunity to opt out.
If personal data has already been shared from a GP practice, a patient will still be able to insist on having it removed
Mr Hunt will insist better sharing of information throughout the NHS has ‘enormous potential’ to improve care.
But he will say the scheme can only command support if patients are given a say over how their personal information is used. He will say any patient that does not want personal data to be shared with the NHS’s central Health and Social Care Information Centre will have their objection respected.
If personal data has already been shared from a GP practice, a patient will still be able to insist on having it removed.
Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, will announce the new change
The British Medical Association, NHS England and the Royal College of GPs will be asked to raise awareness so patients are informed of the changes and know how they can object.
GPs will also be informed of the role they need to play in implementing this.
Around 700,000 patients are thought to have opted out of an existing scheme allowing GPs to share medical information with other parts of the NHS.
Responding to a review by Dame Fiona Caldicott, former head of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Mr Hunt will say: ‘The review has been about striking the right balance between sharing health and care information to improve services and develop new treatments whilst respecting the privacy and wishes of the patient.
‘If patients are to see the benefits of these changes we must respect the wishes of the small number who would prefer not to share this information.’
The NHS database is part of Everyone Counts, a programme to extend the availability of patient information across the NHS.
GPs will be required to send monthly patient updates to a central database.
Health chiefs will be able to demand information on every patient, such as why they have been referred to a consultant. Another arm of the NHS will supply data on prescriptions.
Health chiefs admit ‘patient identifiable components’ will be included, such as postcodes and dates of birth.
The information will be used to analyse demand for services and improve treatment.
Nick Pickles, head of the Big Brother Watch privacy campaign group, said: ‘It is absolutely right the Government has affirmed its commitment to patients controlling their own medical information and respecting the choice of those who do not wish to have their medical records used for purposes outside direct care.’