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'GP patients won’t be identified from sick note records'

 The DWP addresses concerns about plans to extract information from sick note records  

I want to set the record straight on the recent coverage of our plans to collect fit note information from GPs in England and express my disappointment with Pulse’s reporting. To be clear, all data collected will be anonymised and aggregated for use in developing healthcare policy.

Nothing is more sacred in our profession than the trust between doctor and patient, the advice we give, medicine we dispense and procedures we recommend are only ever done in the best interests of our patients. When I first qualified as a GP, my beliefs were no different - patient care and health has always been my priority.

We will use these statistics to better inform health policy across the UK

At the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) I bring my unique perspective and background in general practice medicine and public health and apply it to policy development. We look to ensure a balance between an individual’s health goals and the long term health of the nation. In developing national policy we not only have to consider how best to ensure patient recovery, but also how to prevent them from becoming sick in the first place. Vital to that process is having accurate information on the nation’s health.

Creating good policy requires good evidence and that is why we want to collect data on sickness absence. If we are to create the best possible support for people to get back into work, we need to know more about the patterns of sickness absence around the country. This information will come from anonymised fit note data which, will be published at CCG level. GP practice level data will not be published and I can assure you and your patients that no identifiable information will be extracted at any point. Safeguards are in place to ensure that personal information is removed from the data before the statistics are created and GP-patient confidentiality is not broken.

We will use these statistics to better inform health policy across the UK and develop better quality care for everyone, implementing policies that can speed the road to recovery and back into employment. I understand the privileged and trusted status GPs have with their patients and I look forward to working with GPs to ensure better health both in and out of the workplace.

Dr Pui-Ling Li, chief medical officer and scientific advisor at the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP)

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Readers' comments (5)

  • Dear All,
    And having been involved in this from its first early stages i can confirm Dr Li's reassurance. No patient identifiable data will leave the practice.
    Regards
    Paul Cundy
    Chair GPC IT Committee.

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  • 'GP practice level data will not be published'...but means it will be collected and could be used in other ways. Im not that reassured.

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  • This comment has been removed by the moderator.

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  • David Bush

    "no identifiable information will be extracted at any point. Safeguards are in place to ensure that personal information is removed from the data before the statistics are created"

    So which is it - either no identifiable data is extracted, or it is and then needs to be removed. In its response to my own enquiry, HSCIC told me this:

    "The fit note information being extracted from GP practices to the HSCIC will be anonymised before disclosure"


    Clearly identifiable data is to be extracted, and so Dr Pui-Ling Li needs to carefully consider whether he is being totally honest and transparent.

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  • I thought the million patients who had opted out of care.data would not have their information harvested via the HSCIC. However the guidance on this DWP extraction of data says that only people who have asked for a Type 1 opt out will be excluded from this download. What is type 1? Will patients who requested exclusion out of care.data be excluded from this DWP extraction? Does anyone know?
    Also this has been brought in under the radar, GPs I have spoken to and certainly patients do not know that this information is being extracted and passed to DWP

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