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Care.data – every little helps



My local Tesco store has finally gotten around to introducing scan and shop.  If you’re not familiar with this shopping experience, you pick up a barcode scanner when you enter the store and attach it to your trolley so you can scan items you buy as you walk around and put them straight into your own bags as you shop.  When you’ve finished you simply pay at a dedicated checkout.  It’s simple and time saving, even if you do get stopped for a random bag check.

This shopping concept isn’t original.  In fact it’s been around for twenty years in other supermarkets but apparently it has never really caught on.  Now the fact it’s taken off like a storm in my local Tesco means either there are more gadget-savvy shoppers using the store (unlikely where I live) or Tesco has learnt from the mistakes made by previous supermarket chains and made it easier to use and have promoted it in such a way that ordinary customers feel confident to use it.

Which brings me onto the subject of care.data and the news this week that GPs are being urged to ‘proactively’ support the NHS data-sharing publicity campaign.

This is all in preparation for the commencement of GP data being extracted from Spring 2014 onwards.  The latest information from NHS England is pretty explicit in that GP practices cannot opt out of data extraction for care.data and must continue to raise awareness with their patients about the ways in which patient information is used and shared beyond the practice.  A national leaflet drop is going to happen throughout January so prepare for more telephone enquires from patients with questions about this new development.  Thankfully NHS England has set up a dedicated help line for patients and my receptionists will be instructed to refer all enquires there.  We are busy enough, thank you, without having to deal with unpaid extra work.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think care.data is a good idea, but if it’s not promoted positively and patients given clear information so they can make an informed decision about opting in or out it will begin to undermine the relationship we have with our patients.  The leaflet drop will go some way to do this but remember this is only happening because GPs and patients complained so much last year about how badly care.data was being publicised.

So, maybe NHS England needs to learn a few tricks from Tesco about how to promote a good idea.

After all, every little helps.

Dr Hadrian Moss is a GP in Kettering, Northamptonshire. You can tweet him at @DrHMoss.