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GPs told to warn patients of imminent extraction of data from GP records

GP practices in the north of England have been told to warn patients that information from their GP record will be extracted in two months time.

NHS England have written to GP practices in the north of England instructing them to start making patients aware that patient identifiable information will be extracted from their record through GPES and made available in identifiable and de-identified form to commissioners, researchers and third parties such as private companies.

The practices have been provided with guidance on the extracts and posters and leaflets to put up in the practice to inform patients of the changes, including their right to opt out of having their data extracted. NHS England said practices in other areas will be contacted in successive weeks.

Once NHS England have written to practices they will have eight weeks to raise awareness among patients before the data is physically extracted, though an NHS England spokesperson said that they may allow longer for the first extractions to ensure patients are aware the extractions are happening.

The news comes after the ICO announced that practices who fail to take reasonable steps to make patients aware of the changes could leave themselves open to legal action under the Data Protection Act.

GPs running the EMIS national user group have also created an alternative poster and leaflet to the one officially disseminated by NHS England, in conjunction with the BMA and RCGP, as they complained the official resources would not explain the changes clearly enough to patients.

A spokesperson for NHS England said: ‘We have started sending out information to GP practices, which includes guidance, materials and resources such as posters and leaflets to be used in GP practices. These are being sent to GP practices in the North of England this week, with the other three regions following in successive weeks.

‘We are advising GP practices to supplement these materials with further awareness raising activity such as notices on their websites and through regular communications including patient participation groups. Further regional and national awareness-raising activity is planned. We are aiming for these extractions to begin in the autumn.’

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Readers' comments (5)

  • Why do GPs have to warn patients? Medical notes are the 'property' of the Secretary of State for Health and GPES is a Govt project. Sec of state should be informing the patients

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  • GPs, as you probably know, are the Data Controllers under the Data Protection Act. A perfect job by the government - GPs have to comply with the extraction (changes to legislation were made to support this) and yet they are responsible for informing patients (at their own cost). Caught in between both laws - fantastic.

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  • I am surprised the person who made that initial post didn't think of data protection issues.

    I think patients wouldn't be happy to know that highly personal information like medical records will be available to third parties (especially private companies).

    It would be interesting to know how much the Government will be paid for this information.

    Why should patients have to 'opt out' of the sharing of their medical records? It should be an opt in decision from patients by either GP surgeries or the PCT contacting the patient for their permission.

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  • The instructions I have received state “Under the Health and Social Care Act 2012, NHS England has the power to direct the HSCIC to collect information from all providers of NHS care, including general practices” and similarly “Under the powers of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 (HSCA), the health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) can, under certain circumstances, require Personal Confidential Data (PCD) from GP practices without seeking patient consent”. Does this supersede the data Protection Act or more likely contradict it? Either way, the most galling thing is that these provisions give NHS England the right to “our” data which they can even sell to others but we retain the data protection responsibilities and cost of handling patients objections.

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  • From experience third party access to medical records has altered the dictionary description of confidentiality - the word should be obliterated

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