The Government’s new data scheme has seemingly come from nowhere to dominate health coverage in the past few weeks. A number of GPs and campaigners have said the General Practice Data for Planning and Research is a ‘data grab’, and ‘patient data for sale’ will allow unscrupulous companies to get their hands on individualised patient data.
There has been a lot of noise around this, with some suggestions that pharma companies will use this to target individual patients with their drugs. I think fears around this are overblown – I’m not sure how they can do this with current regulations around pharma advertising, for a start.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t worries around this. First, there are the ethical concerns around there being a wild west around the data. Under the GDPDR, companies will be able to obtain pseudonymised data – which it is theoretically possible to trace back to an individual patient – and then pass it on without publicly reporting it, meaning we don’t know where it is going. However much money NHS Digital is making from this, I can’t see it being worth it.
Second, and far more importantly in my opinion, is the trust issue between patients and GPs. There are so many concerns flying around – as I have argued, some valid some not so valid – but for many patients, it will put doubt in their mind around approaching their GP. And this is not to mention the workload implications.
I’m sure there are benefits for medical research, but it feels that there are ways to achieve this without this data grab that will endanger the GP-patient relationship. And the Government’s delay will not do anything to allay these concerns.
Jaimie Kaffash is editor of Pulse. Follow him on Twitter @jkaffash or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.