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GPs most trusted by public to protect their data

The public trust their GP practice to protect their private information and use it appropriately more than the rest of the NHS, banks or Government ministers, an Ipsos MORI poll has found.

The poll, commissioned by the Royal Statistical Society, shows that 49% of 2,019 adults gave GPs a score of eight to ten on a 10-point scale for trusting them to use data appropriately, and just 15% said they had low trust in their GP.

This compared with the next highest scorer, the NHS, to which just 36% of the public gave the highest ranking on the most-trusted scale. The police came third with 28%, while banks and the UK Government were trusted by 14% and 13% respectively.

The survey also evaluated attitudes to sharing data for specific purposes, such as GPs and the NHS being able to access a patient’s health records for patient care, which 77% said should be allowed, and only 12% opposed.

But sharing health records for purposes other than direct patient care – similar to the proposals for NHS England’s postponed record sharing scheme, – was seen as less acceptable.

Only 53% of the public thought that GP records should be shared with academics and researchers to improve treatments, and only 32% thought health records should be shared with private companies – with 45% opposing.

Hetan Shah, executive director of the Royal Statistical Society said: ‘Our research shows a “data trust deficit”. In this data-rich world, companies and government have to earn citizens’ trust in how they manage and use data – and those that get it wrong will pay the price.

‘In particular, there may be big benefits to be had from data-sharing within government, but to get a public mandate, policymakers must be clear about the benefits and show how they will safeguard individual privacy.’

In March, Pulse reported that Jeremy Hunt had proposed GPs should use the trust that public place in them to sell the benefits of the scheme.

But a survey last month showed that the majority of the public still hadn’t heard of the scheme, despite it being delayed in February to build awareness and understanding among the public.