Exclusive A GP threatened with termination of his contract by area team managers after deciding to opt all his patients out of the care.data scheme has been told he won’t face punitive action and that the whole episode was a ‘misunderstanding’.
Oxford GP Dr Gordon Gancz told Pulse managers have backtracked on a ‘notice of remediation’ sent last month requiring him to remove notices on his practice website about his plan to opt all his patients out of the scheme and remove all opt-out codes he had applied to records.
Officials from Thames Valley Area Team told Dr Gancz that the information on his website could remain and that they had not decided yet what – if any punishment – he would face if he opted his patients out.
He was told that they didn’t believe ‘punitive action’ was justified, and that they conceded the opt out system appeared ‘a bit like Big Brother’.
The softening stance from area team managers comes as NHS England announced yesterday that it would be postponing extractions for six months.
The move came after recent statements were issued by the RCGP and BMA outlining their concerns over the scheme.
Pulse revealed in November that Dr Gancz was planning to notify his patients that he would be opting them out of the care.data extraction scheme, and earlier this month that he had been issued with a contract notice and summoned to a meeting with the area team to discuss the ‘remediation needed’ to remedy the breach.
Dr Gancz has since featured in the national media, and been interviewed by the BBC and ITV.
But at the meeting with Thames Valley Area Team last week Dr Gancz said that officials said there was ‘a misunderstanding about the email’ sent to him and that he was raising ‘serious concerns on clear principles’.
Dr Gancz told Pulse: ‘I said: “I think the email was extremely ill judged” and he said “I think there was a misunderstanding about the email.”’
He added: ‘I said to him: “Let me get this quite clear, [if I] press the button tomorrow to opt out all my patients until you tell me otherwise. Excluding those who’ve already told me otherwise, what is going to happen?”
‘He said: “I think it is quite fair to say that we have not decided. We do not wish to make examples of anybody, if there are real genuine concerns, which clearly you have, we feel they should be addressed appropriately, and not through punitive action.”’
Dr Gancz added that area team managers said that NHS England was looking at the opt out process as it was ‘a bit like Big Brother’.
Care.data will see data from patient records extracted from all GP practices, linked to secondary care data and made accessible to researchers and private companies.
Supporters of the scheme have argued it will have significant benefits for both commissioning services and medical research, and NHS IT chiefs insist patients’ data will usually only be shared in anonymised or ‘pseudonymised’ form, with any releases of identifiable data subject to strict privacy safeguards and a public interest test.
But a Pulse survey of nearly 400 GPs showed that over 40% intend to opt themselves out of the scheme over a lack of confidence in how data will be shared.
Thames Valley Area Team was approached for comment, but a spokesperson said that they did not comment on private meetings