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The care.data fiasco feels strangely familiar



It all feels very familiar: a flagship NHS initiative that draws initial support from the profession, yet turns out to be an embarrassment.

 A quick look at the front pages of the nationals shows a care.data story almost daily – cast your mind a year back, and this would have been NHS 111.

 The similarities are there. The experts warning about potential problems. NHS England denying anything is wrong and pressing ahead, but later admitting it could have done things better.

 Out-of-hours experts warned about potential problems with the NHS 111 bidding process, while IT experts have been flagging up issues with patient confidentiality for about a year.

 As the deadline for launch approached last March, the BMA started withdrawing its support for NHS 111. Fast-forward to this February, the BMA and the RCGP are making equally disturbing noises over care.data before March 2014.

The similarities are significant. The reorganisation of the NHS was a major piece of work, granted. But these two major initiatives are arguably the two biggest projects that NHS England has been tasked with implementing. And both, being charitable, have not gone according to plan.

 Of course, it is unfair to completely blame NHS England. It did not exist when plans for both schemes were formed. In the long term, both plans could turn out to be beneficial for patient care and after a fairly disastrous launch in some areas, there are signs that NHS 111 is improving, even if the post-event messaging is still adding to GPs’ burdens. As for care.data, NHS bosses have a chance now to admit they got it wrong and turn around this PR nightmare of a project.

 But they are a huge embarrassment for the body that is yet to celebrate its first birthday and, as usual, it is GPs that are stuck in the middle picking up the pieces when it all goes wrong.

Jaimie Kaffash is a senior journalist at Pulse