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Local GP data sharing schemes ‘open practices up’ to legal challenges

Exclusive LMCs have had to block attempts by commissioners to open up GP records to social care and out-of-hours groups because of data security issues that ‘blow the concerns about…out of the water’, Pulse has learned.

Local leaders across England have advised their members not to sign up to the schemes over fears that practices will be liable to data protection laws.

The GPC has warned that such data sharing schemes are ‘cropping all over the place’ and ‘leave GPs open’ to legal challenges.

This comes as GP leaders have proposed a motion for the 2015 LMCs Conference this year, arguing for a national approval process for data sharing agreements to be implemented.

Pulse also reported yesterday that the Health and Social Care Information Centre has said it did not have the resources to implement opt-outs from 700,000 patients to their data being shared.

The local data sharing schemes are being proposed across England, Pulse has discovered.

Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire LMCs chair Dr Paul Roblin said he had to ‘immediately’ write to Buckinghamshire GPs urging them to avoid signing up to a scheme which would share records with social care crisis teams, as well out-of-hours and acute care.

The LMC have raised several potential problems, including: ‘A lack of informed consent,  assumption of implied consent, lack of clarity about who will have access and how that will be safeguarded, the amount of data being shared, and the plan to advertise data sharing in the surgery, on the sides of buses and on the radio and internet.’

Cambridge LMC recently discussed a record sharing scheme put forward by the local community care and adult social services provider, UnitingCare.

The LMC noted that despite ‘good features’ of the proposal, including implementing it as a ‘read only system’ with the GP retaining data controller responsibilities, they were still unable to approve the scheme.

In Kent, Dr John Allingham, an executive officer of Kent LMC told Pulse there were a number of schemes where the LMC had ‘concerns about confidentiality and consent’.

GPC negotiator Dr Beth McCarron-Nash, who leads on IT issues told Pulse: ‘One of the biggest concerns I have, isn’t around, which we’re working hard nationally to resolve, it’s around local data sharing agreements.’

‘They’re cropping up all over the place, and a lot of them blow the concerns about and secondary use of data, out of the water. They leave GPs open and I am very concerned about the data sharing agreements I read. It’s not acceptable just to go ahead and many of them are CCG driven.’

Dr Grant Ingrams, deputy chair of the GPC IT subcommittee, said increasing local autonomy meant the quality of schemes were often highly variable and GPs should always have schemes vetted by their LMC.

He told Pulse: ‘I’ve seen hundreds over the years ranging from good… to being downright unlawful. Unfortunately the level of expertise and understanding varies an awful lot from area to area, so my advice to anyone is never to share up to data sharing unless you’ve checked it with your LMC, and for LMCs to perhaps run it past someone else before signing off anything.’