GPs are being urged to ‘proactively’ inform their patients about how their medical records will be shared inside and outside the NHS, as managers prepare to launch a publicity campaign next week on their flagship care.data programme.
An update on the NHS England website says that from Monday, all patients in England will be sent a patient information leaflet, explaining how their personal data will be used, the potential benefits for them and the NHS and their right not to share confidential data if they choose not to.
The leaflets will be delivered in four waves across different regions, starting with the North next week, followed by the Midlands and East, the South and London in subsequent weeks.
Patients will have at least one month to read the leaflet and to register an objection with their practice, if they choose to opt out of sharing their data before the first planned extraction of data beginning in March.
Care.data will see the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) routinely extracting identifiable patient data from GP practices and hospitals. It will then be shared with other sections of the NHS and potentially other third parties in pseudonymised form – and if certain conditions are met and approval is given, may even be shared in identifiable form.
NHS England says most patients will be able to access enough information from the leaflets and through an accompanying telephone helpline, but says GPs will need to able to provide advice if patients ask for further information.
NHS England called on practices to keep raising awareness of the data sharing scheme ‘proactively’ with their patients.
The update states: ‘It is important that GP practices continue to raise awareness proactively with their patients about the ways in which patient information is used and shared beyond direct care.’
NHS England has also produced a set of FAQs for both GPs and patients to support the information campaign.
Please note: This article was changed on 03/01/14 to indicate that personalised data would only be passed onto NHS bodies or third parties only under certain conditions, and would not be routine under the care.data scheme.