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Patient-identifiable data released

By Steve Nowottny

Large amounts of patient-identifiable data from the Secondary Uses Service have been made available to academics funded by private company Dr Foster Intelligence, the BMA has warned.

In a letter to new health minister Ben Bradshaw, the BMA said it was ‘extremely concerned' that data had been made available with approval from the Patient Information Advisory Group under Section 60 of the Health and Social Care Act 2001.

‘This data has been subsequently made available to a private company without being fully anonymised,' it said. ‘We also understand that PCTs have access to large amounts of patient-identifiable data.'

Dr Paul Cundy, chair of the GPC IT subcommittee, told Pulse the private company, Dr Foster, was being given data on a routine basis.

‘Section 60 was meant to be used in exceptional circumstances – it was not designed to be used as a routine automated transfer of data,' he said.

A spokesperson for Dr Foster confirmed the Dr Foster Unit at Imperial College, funded by Dr Foster Intelligence, receives identifiable patient information from SUS, and that four members of staff could access it. But the unit only provided ‘pseudonymised' data to Dr Foster Intelligence.

‘No Dr Foster Intelligence staff have access to identifiable data,' the spokesperson said.

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