BMA says Ministers listened to Association’s call to delay roll-out of the patient data sharing programme and it was the right thing to do

BMA Press release

Location: England
Published: Tuesday 8 June 2021

Commenting on the announcement by Jo Churchill, the Health and Social Care Minister’s announcement that the patient data sharing programme roll out has been delayed until September, BMA GP committee executive team member and IT lead Dr Farah Jameel said:

“Today’s announcement is an important win for patients, family doctors and the BMA. Along with the RCGP, we made it abundantly clear to both the Government and NHS Digital1 that this programme needed to be delayed to allow for a proper in-depth public information campaign to give the public a chance to make an informed decision about whether they want their data collected as part of the new GP data extraction programme. We knew there was insufficient time until the first extraction – originally planned for the 1st July - to allow for the public to have a proper understanding of what the programme was intended for and to give enough time to make fully informed choices on whether they should opt-out or not.

“We know from our members that many family doctors feel that all their patients may not yet know what’s changing, and many practices do not believe that they themselves have been given the right level of information nor adequate time to comprehensively understand the programme, its merits and the safeguards it will operate within. It’s clear that previous communications from NHS Digital on this programme has, frankly, been either inadequate or non-existent.

“While the BMA understands that data sharing plays a key role in planning and research as well as developing treatments, we also know that the crux of the GP-patient relationship relies on trust, transparency and honesty, and therefore allowing the public to make fully informed decisions is paramount.

“What’s important now is that the Government takes full responsibility for ensuring that there is honest dialogue and robust public engagement. GPs were never, and should not be, expected to take responsibility for communicating the details of this programme to patients, so we would expect to see the Government use this extension to adequately communicate the programme details to doctors and the public. Patients across England must be afforded the ability to make an informed choice in this matter, with decisions based on the correct facts and information.”

Notes to editors

The BMA is a trade union and professional association representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.