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A faulty production line

NHS England requests data on GP appointments to support case for seven-day working

NHS England will ask GP practices for access to detailed information about their provision of patient appointments in order to analyse if the money spent on seven-day access is ‘wisely invested’.

A spokesperson said NHS bosses had decided not to proceed with plans to bypass GP practices to access this information directly from IT suppliers, as reported in the national media.

This is despite having asked EMIS for ‘patient level data’ excluding names but including birth year, gender and the first part of their postcode only last month.

In the letter sent to EMIS on 19 June, seen by Pulse, NHS England’s head of primary care development Tracey Grainger said it needed EMIS to extract this data because there was ‘an urgent need within short delivery timescales’ to analyse ‘changes to appointment provision, appointment uptake and patient encounter patterns’ by this September.

The data requirements sheet sent out by NHS England for comments from EMIS requested the date and time of the appointment; its duration; appointment type, face to face, skype, home visit; and whether the appointment was urgent or routine.

But patient privacy campaign group medConfidential’s coordinator Phil Booth noted that GPs are the ‘data controller’ for patient records rather than ‘the companies GPs choose and pay to provide software’.

He said: ‘It is GPs who have a professional and ethical duty of confidence to their patients. With this letter, NHS England has shown it will prioritise political motivations over patient trust. It quite evidently thinks it is above the law when it comes to protections around patient data.

‘Its intentions are clear, route around doctors and patients, trample on every rule of confidentiality and collect it all.’

GPC IT lead Dr Paul Cundy said NHS England should inform patients if extracting data, including how it might be used.

He added: ‘The Government should not be casting aside patient confidentiality in pursuit of ill-though-out political priorities.’

However an NHS England spokesperson told Pulse that it had decided not to take the ‘course of action [the letter] outlines’.

A spokesperson said: ‘It is crucial not to misunderstand what is being proposed. We are not talking about individual personal information in this letter. What we are referring to is overall statistics for GP surgeries on issues such as total numbers of appointments.

‘Practices have asked us if we could secure more help from the system suppliers in auditing their data so as to reduce their costs and workload. Such information is clearly needed to ensure the £125m is wisely invested through the Prime Minister’s GP Access Fund.’

EMIS Health stressed it has ‘strict information governance procedures’ which meant it had not released any data in response to NHS England’s initial request.

A spokesperson said: ‘This responsibility rests with GP practices who must give their consent to any extract as the data controllers of this information.’


Readers' comments (17)

  • @12.25

    The NHS can never match private pay. This is because of supply and demand. Once NHS pay rises private pay rises the same amount. The only way to keep pay down in both the NHS and private sector is if all Doctors were allowed to work in the UK i.e. opening the doors to Doctors from Russia, Cuba etc where pay is very low.

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  • They have this dumb data already and can see your computers. Age of the internet.

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  • It doesn't matter what the data shows . It will be manipulated to suit their political ends .

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  • The type of data NHS England was requesting would normally have gone through the HSCIC and - if it was proposed to extract it using GPES - should have been scrutinised by the GPES IAG (which wasn't abolished until 30th June 2015): I believe it should otherwise have been scrutinised by SCCI (which will, after some re-organisation, take on the scruting functions of the GPES IAG.

    The most worrying thing about this whole story is the apparent willingness of David Cameron and NHS England to ignore the normal pathways for requesting patient level data, and lack of information about whee it would be stored: HSCIC is the only statutory safe haven for health or social care data extracts authorised by the HSCA: neither NHS England nor no 10 are authorised to hold it.

    Should we be expecting other similar requests - with or without due process?

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  • We probably need a Snowden in UK to challenge lack of transparency issues in NHS.
    Having two guys at the top in NHS with a privatization agenda first and last is too risky a proposition to be acceptable.

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  • My response will be Get Knotted

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  • I contacted EMIS fulfillment team - they confirm that no data has been extracted for this purpose - their response to NHS England was that as they are not Data Controllers - the request would have to be made to the practices - this practice would not consent for data used for pollitical use - and even for health use we request our patients consent

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