Prime Minister David Cameron has announced the NHS Constitution is set to be changed to allow pharmaceutical companies access to anonymised GP records 'on a scale never seen before'.
The constitution currently guarantees patients the right to confidentiality and ‘to expect the NHS to keep your confidential information safe and secure'.
But a consultation on the constitution due to start in October is set to overturn this right to allow patients' data to be automatically used for research unless the patient specifically chooses to opt out, the Mr Cameron revealed.
Pulse revealed in May that patients would be given the right to withhold identifiable data from being extracted from GP records, under proposed changes to a Government scheme to create a central NHS patient data service.
In a speech to the Global Health Policy Summit in London last week, Mr Cameron said the Government would also be consulting on the changes to the NHS Constitution later in the year.
He told the summit the data would be anonymised, but the open access would ‘help make the UK the best place in the world to carry out cutting-edge research'.
Mr Cameron said: ‘Drug development relies more and more on real-time data. The UK is going to be the world leader when it comes to making this kind of data available, and we're going to do this by harnessing the incredible data collected by our NHS.
‘We are about to consult on changing the NHS Constitution so that the default setting is for patients' data to be used for research unless the patient opts out. This will make anonymised data available to scientists and researchers on a scale never seen before.'
He said the data would be used for research into ‘long-neglected areas' of care like dementia.
The consultation is due to start in October, according to the Department of Health.