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Care.data scheme set to cost more than £50m

NHS England’s controversial data-sharing scheme set to cost in excess of £50m, and has yet to receive official Treasury approval, reveal papers from a meeting to be held this week.

The papers reveal that the budget for the care.data scheme, which will see records extracted from GP practices and linked with secondary care data, is still being finalised and has yet to be finally approved.

They also reveal details of the ‘phased roll-out’ for the care.data programme, which Pulse reported were set to begin in March with the first full extractions beginning in May and that NHS England had raised concerns last year over the governance of the programme.

The minutes - from the care.data sub-group at the Informatics Services Commissioning Group (ISCG) - said: ‘The phased rollout with extractions will take place from March to May. This phased approach over the three months extracts from 1% of GPs, then 10%, then 100% to enable quality checking and full testing of the process.’

The subgroup meets on Friday to give its latest bulletin on the planning and delivery of care.data, including the finalisation of budget which is yet to receive Treasury approval.

The £50m sum, published in a pre-meeting paper, is the first estimate of the data sharing scheme’s cost, but it could cost more.

The paper for Friday’s meeting, stated: ‘The Strategic Outline Case for care.data has been developed, reviewed by NHS England programme team colleagues and is now in the assurance approvals process […]’

‘It will be updated and distributed to programme board members for review (mid Jan) and to wider ‘SMEs (e.g. DH Finance) for endorsement and will go to the HSCIC Corporate Assurance Panel and then on to the ISCG for their approval, before going to Treasury for approval (cost over £50m).’

It was also revealed, last week, that the board of the Health and Social Care Information Centre had expressed concerns about the scheme’s governance and had written to NHS England and the Department of Health.

Minutes for the Board’s 4 December meeting state: ‘The Board had some concerns in respect to the governance arrangements for the programme. The Chair took an action to write to the Department of Health Sponsor, he would copy this letter to Malcolm Grant, the Chair of NHS England’s Board.’

NHS England bowed to confidentiality concerns and announced a £2m publicity campaign to inform patients about their plans to extract and share patient data last year. The leaflet directs patients to ‘speak to their GP practice’ if they have any concerns.

Care.data will see the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) routinely extracting identifiable patient data from GP practices and hospitals. It will then be shared with other sections of the NHS and potentially other third parties in pseudonymised form - and if certain conditions are met and approval is given, may even be shared in an identifiable form.

Pulse reported earlier this week that requests for identifiable patient data have been approved more than 30 times since April by the group of independent experts which will oversee access to confidential information uploaded to the controversial care.data scheme.

A Pulse analysis of applications to the Confidentiality Advisory Group (CAG) reveals there have been 31 releases of confidential patient information since April 2013 - 12 of which were to bodies outside the NHS.

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