17 February 2014
The BMA has urged the government to increase public awareness of the implications of patient data sharing.
It follows concern among GPs and research showing that almost half of patients were unaware of the plans by NHS England to share some data from GP medical records.
Leaflets were sent to patients in January, explaining patients’ rights to opt out of the care.data scheme.
However, around 45 per cent remain unaware of the plans, according to a poll by ICM Research for BBC Radio 4’s PM programme.
The BMA supports the principle of using anonymised data to help improve healthcare services.
However, doctors leaders want a strengthened public awareness campaign.
BMA GPs committee chair Chaand Nagpaul (pictured below) said: ‘The BMA is deeply concerned about the government’s public information campaign for care.data.
‘With just weeks to go until the uploading of patient data is scheduled to begin, patients remain inadequately informed about these proposals.
Dr Nagpaul said patients must be made fully aware of what the proposals meant for them and their right to object to the extraction of their data.
He added: ‘Today we call on the government to ensure public trust in the system by properly informing the public about care.data before the currently planned data extracts commence, and produce evidence this has been achieved prior to uploads taking place.’
The BMA will meet NHS England for urgent discussions on improving patient awareness of care.data.
The scheme in primary care is similar to one that already exists in secondary care.
An NHS England spokesperson said: ‘We are absolutely committed to ensuring the public understands the benefits of this important initiative and also the choices available to them.
‘This is why we provided leaflets and posters to every GP practice in August 2013, have produced a video animation, and have established an information line on 0300 456 3531 for patients to call if they have any questions or concerns.
‘We also contracted to deliver a leaflet to every possible household in England during January; we are investigating reports that people did not receive leaflets.’
NHS England said this was part of a continuing engagement exercise, which included media work, sending information to patient groups and updating frequently asked questions.
Read more about the BMA's work on care.data
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