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Local GP data sharing schemes 'open practices up' to legal challenges

Exclusive LMCs have had to block attempts by commissioners to open up GP records to social care and out-of-hours groups because of data security issues that ‘blow the concerns about care.data…out of the water’, Pulse has learned.

Local leaders across England have advised their members not to sign up to the schemes over fears that practices will be liable to data protection laws.

The GPC has warned that such data sharing schemes are ‘cropping all over the place’ and ‘leave GPs open’ to legal challenges.

This comes as GP leaders have proposed a motion for the 2015 LMCs Conference this year, arguing for a national approval process for data sharing agreements to be implemented.

Pulse also reported yesterday that the Health and Social Care Information Centre has said it did not have the resources to implement opt-outs from 700,000 patients to their data being shared.

The local data sharing schemes are being proposed across England, Pulse has discovered.

Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire LMCs chair Dr Paul Roblin said he had to ‘immediately’ write to Buckinghamshire GPs urging them to avoid signing up to a scheme which would share records with social care crisis teams, as well out-of-hours and acute care.

The LMC have raised several potential problems, including: ‘A lack of informed consent,  assumption of implied consent, lack of clarity about who will have access and how that will be safeguarded, the amount of data being shared, and the plan to advertise data sharing in the surgery, on the sides of buses and on the radio and internet.’

Cambridge LMC recently discussed a record sharing scheme put forward by the local community care and adult social services provider, UnitingCare.

The LMC noted that despite ‘good features’ of the proposal, including implementing it as a ‘read only system’ with the GP retaining data controller responsibilities, they were still unable to approve the scheme.

In Kent, Dr John Allingham, an executive officer of Kent LMC told Pulse there were a number of schemes where the LMC had ‘concerns about confidentiality and consent’.

GPC negotiator Dr Beth McCarron-Nash, who leads on IT issues told Pulse: ‘One of the biggest concerns I have, isn’t around care.data, which we’re working hard nationally to resolve, it’s around local data sharing agreements.’

‘They’re cropping up all over the place, and a lot of them blow the concerns about care.data and secondary use of data, out of the water. They leave GPs open and I am very concerned about the data sharing agreements I read. It’s not acceptable just to go ahead and many of them are CCG driven.’

Dr Grant Ingrams, deputy chair of the GPC IT subcommittee, said increasing local autonomy meant the quality of schemes were often highly variable and GPs should always have schemes vetted by their LMC.

He told Pulse: ‘I’ve seen hundreds over the years ranging from good… to being downright unlawful. Unfortunately the level of expertise and understanding varies an awful lot from area to area, so my advice to anyone is never to share up to data sharing unless you’ve checked it with your LMC, and for LMCs to perhaps run it past someone else before signing off anything.’

Readers' comments (12)

  • I fail to understand this attitude.

    Yes, it has to be done legally in lawfully. But if you look at Caldicott2 review, it suggests not sharing could be just as harmful as wrongly sharing the data. Data protection act also supports sharing of data for medical purpose (see schedule 2 & 3).

    Many doctors seems to have anxiety about sharing - done in the right manner this will improve patient care and I find it an lazy attitude to just say "no" without doing the ground work to justify not sharing.

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  • I object to my personal data being shared with other health professionals, social services and anyone else without my consent.
    I do not want my colleagues to access my information ( although they would find it very boring!)
    Local data sharing for the purposes of access out of hours or in secondary care without explicit consent would be the end of confidentiality as we know it. I know of too many people who access information about members of their family as it is.
    It would be impossible to monitor and in extreme cases put. People such as victims of abuse at risk.

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  • Not data sharing has produced actual harm to patients.
    The default should have been to all sharing with the option of opting out

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  • There was one large OOH GP Service which requested GP's to type patient information into their website, including which patients should be exempted from patient satisfaction questionnaire !!!!
    There is a very useful case for having data in OOH but this should be via SCR being available to OOH Services (if patient has opted in) or for patients to have access to own data -example on a smart phone which the patient can share with an appropriate person e.g. OOH, A&E , hospital, district Nurses etc.

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  • Truly disgusting!
    Other countries have been doing this for years with fantastic benefits for both GPs and , more importantly, patients. Forget the DPA and the risk of being subject to legal action. Just wait until another person dies or comes to harm because of our ancient system and then see what legal action against these groups really looks like. This is not primary care caring for patients but only more , in this case justified, fuel for those who think we only think of ourselves.. How many more patients have to coe to harm before this is sorted? No wonder the independent contractor status is coming under question.
    Shameful! Beth , your biggest concern is patients!

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  • My Mother is dead set against having her data shared, but you should here her moan when she comes back form the Hospital because she has had to explain all her symptoms "again" to "another Doctor when they should already know!!"

    We are, once again, being held over the coals by the press.

    Ignore the stirring trouble makers and do what you all, as professional Clinicians, deem necessary for the good and benefit of the Patients, otherwise as the old mantra goes, you are damned if you do and damned if you don't, and we will never move forward.

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  • Dear Anonymous GP at 10.11 am,
    I am pro-sharing of medical information and campaigning for same but this has to be done in a safe and controlled manner and hence a bit surprised by your comments about a GPC Negotiator.
    I believe (peronally) instead of GP`s being the sole guardian of notes, patients can be given access to their summary (SCR) and they can share with anyone they would like to! (except third party information of course).
    Children at risk, vulnerable adults or those who are deemed to be at risk to themselves should be excluded from this. (which where the friction is)
    There is lot of work to be done on this including legality but blindly sharing information has its price.

    Recently a Pharmacy chain was accused of selling name and addresses of patients with certain medical conditions to a third party - this is what happens when people share information without knowing the consequences!
    This is what the GPC is trying to protect patients from!

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  • It is a national disgrace that with all the technology available to us, and with a single NHS, we don't share patient records. It is obvious that this would be better for patients and prevent many errors as well as making the NHS massively more efficient. The government should introduce legislation to force records sharing. And yes of course with all the proper safeguards in place. Anyway, it won't be long before all GPs are salaried and it will be up to their employers - probably local authorities.

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  • I am afriad to say anyone who shares my information, outisde the organisation, without my consent will find themselves in court. This is why I would never ever register with an NHS GP again the risks are far too high. Yes I am an ex Practice Mnager who no longer trusts the system as far as I could throw it. In my case why too many data breaches and things have gone wrong in my care.

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  • Anonymous | GP Partner | 06 May 2015 5:10pm

    You are 100% right.

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