Care.data could be facing further delay as the Government goes into a period of purdah until after the EU referendum on 23 June.
Pulse has learned that the Department of Health is sitting on two completed reviews relating to patient consent and data security – from national data guardian Dame Fiona Caldicott and from the CQC.
The two independent reports, both of which had been due in January, are now not expected until summer.
In the UK, during the time leading up to an announced election or referendum, central and local government are not allowed to make new announcements; this is commonly referred to as the purdah period.
At the CQC board meeting held last week, chief executive David Behan said that its report into the standards of data security for patients’ confidential data across the NHS had been shared with the health secretary, but that it was ’highly likely that this report will be published after the European referendum’.
Mr Behan said: ‘That report has been sent through to him, and the decision about publishing that sits with the secretary of state. He will have to take a view on that.
‘It think it’s highly likely that this report will be published after the European referendum, and I think this is as much to do with when the pre-election period starts as anything else.’
Approached by Pulse, Dame Fiona’s office confirmed that her report would also not be published until after the referendum.
Her office has been tasked with developing NHS standards for protecting patients’ data, and a new model for patients to consent or object to data sharing.
A spokesperson said: ‘Dame Fiona looks forward to the publication of her review and to working alongside Government and health and care organisations on the implementation of the recommendations.’
A DH spokesperson confirmed both reports were due for publication ‘in summer’.
It comes as official data published last week revealed that the NHS has been ignoring more than 1.2 million patients’ wishes to opt out of data sharing for years, because of a poorly implemented opt-out that would have seen patients miss out on cancer screening.
The care.data delay to date
Care.data was shelved in February 2014, just days before it was set to roll out across England, after GPs and privacy campaigners protested that patients were unaware of the scheme, and that there were no adequate protections to protect data being shared with commercial organisations beyond the NHS.
After a national leafletting campaign was shown to have reached fewer than a third of households, NHS England delayed the scheme to ‘raise awareness’ of its benefits, and promised a full pilot.
But several attempts to relaunch with ‘pathfinders’ in four English regions had to be aborted, with the Government finally resorting to a comprehensive review of its care.data communication materials and wider strategy for NHS data sharing.