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NHS England to start extracting data from GP practice records

GP records data will be extracted and given to NHS organisations and researchers for analysis from next month, NHS England has announced.

The data from patient records will be extracted through the General Practice Extraction Service (GPES) system from next month, and practices will be informed in the next fortnight about how the process will work.

Mr Tim Kelsey, national director of patient information at NHS England said the data will be sent to the Health and Social Care Information Centre where it will be linked with data from secondary care, and published in September for analysis by NHS and other accredited organisations such as researchers.

Mr Kelsey said: ‘In the next couple of weeks guidance will go out to every GP in the country explaining why we’re going to take data out of their practices, in order to enhance their ability to listen better to  the voice of the patient, in terms of outcomes they’re receiving, as they travel through the health and care system.’

He added: ‘It’ll allow us to link primary and secondary care data. It’ll mean the first time, anywhere in the world at a national health economy level we will have some transparency for outcomes of patients across the pathway of care. The data starts flowing next month and will be published for people to start being able to analyse from September.’

NHS England clarified that the data will be ‘held in a secure, controlled environment’ and only made available to the NHS and other accredited organisations for analysis in an anonymised form.

The plans to extract data have been met with controversy, with the GPC calling for a publicity campaign to let patients know their data will be shared and used for purposes beyond their direct care.

Mr Kelsey also said he warned patients to think of themselves as ‘customers’ of NHS services, and that this transparent access to data would empower engagement. He added he wanted to encourage doctors to build individual apps to act as interfaces for the data.

In his response to the Caldicott report on information governance, published in April, health secretary Jeremy Hunt gave into pressure from campaign groups and announced that patients would be able to ‘veto’ having data from their GP records extracted and shared.

NHS England are also still awaiting a decision from the Secretary of State about whether they can permanently waive common confidentiality laws through a legal exemption known as the ‘section 251’ clause, allow confidential patient data to flow around the commissioning system.