This site is intended for health professionals only

Commissioning Board given green light to routinely extract data from GP practices

The NHS Commissioning Board’s bid to routinely extract data from GP practices has been accepted, allowing CCGs to ‘compare data between practices’ and provide individual GP practices with ‘points to where improvements can be made’.

The GPES Independent Advisory Group (IAG), which approves the use of the General Practice Extraction Service (GPES), said the Board will be allowed to extract patient-identifiable data on demographics, diseases, events and referrals from GP systems each month.

The data will be sent to the Health and Social Care Information Centre, where it will be anonymised before being sent on to the Board.

However, it ruled this will be dependent on three conditions: that the Board must more clearly define the purpose of the extraction; that the BMA and RCGP should be included in discussions about what data should be extracted; and that any extraction will ensure patients’ rights around objections and opt outs will be in line with the outcomes of the consultation on changes to the NHS Constitution.

As part of the application to make the data extractions, the Board said the data would be used to allow CCGs to track outcomes, compare data (for example on referrals and A&E attendances) between practices and to map obesity, alcohol and lifestyle factors against public health estimates.

It also said that the data would be used to ‘support the GP in managing disease’ and to provide ‘a holistic analysis of the practice itself and points to where improvements can be made’.

However, the IAG ruled: ‘A clearer explanation and justification should be provided for the data required, the frequency of extraction and the specific retention period, and that this clearer explanation is linked explicitly to the purpose for which the data will be used.’

The ruling comes as Dr Paul Cundy, chairman of the GPC’s IT subcommittee, voiced concerns that patients are not aware their data will be used for purposes other than their care, and advocated a publicity campaign to highlight the changes to patients.

The principles ruling GPES extractions - negotiated by the GPC and the Health and Social Care Information Centre, which manages GPES - state that information on the extracts must be available on a public website, and that general information about GPES should be available in GP practices.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the GPC’s lead negotiator on IT, said the IAG’s ruling was a ‘tentative acceptance’ to a joint approach to publicity.

He said: ‘What’s important are the next steps. Important issues were raised about this dataset, issues about information governance, and ensuring patient opt-outs are fully addressed. This was a tentative acceptance subject to dialogue and change, and the GPC will be part of those discussions.’

‘We need to be confident that the rights of the public are respected. It is vital the public are fully aware that these extractions are taking place. It’s unlikely a website in itself will be enough.’