General practitioner Consultant England

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Information sharing guidance offered to GPs

GPs can now access guidance on a new way of using anonymised patient record data to help commissioners improve NHS services.

Digital is a new system being developed by NHS England, which aims to link information from general practice with that from secondary and community healthcare to improve patient outcomes and pathways.

Guidance published today, which is produced in partnership with the BMA, explains how that data will be collected from GP systems. The new system will be tested in a small number of GP practices, which will be alerted in advance of any extraction of patient data so that they can raise awareness among their patients.

Data being extracted from GP systems will include personal confidential data on referrals, NHS prescriptions and clinical data, which will be stored in a secure environment by the Health and Social Care Information Centre.

Patients can object to the use of any personal confidential data from a GP practice apart from in exceptional circumstances such as when a court order has been issued.

Register of patient objections

Additional supporting guidance from the BMA explains how GPs record patient objections.

BMA GPs committee chair Laurence Buckman said: ‘The BMA is pleased to have jointly produced this guidance, which will help to ensure that practices understand these changes.

‘It is important that commissioners have access to data to design services provided that this does not impact upon confidentiality.’

Dr Buckman added: ‘The most important point is that patients will be able to object to confidential data from their GP records being used for and other secondary uses.

‘GP practices will play an important role in making sure patients are aware of how their data is used, and addressing their concerns.’

Joined-up thinking aims to expand the current hospital episode statistics, which provides data on hospital admissions, outpatient and emergency medicine attendances, to become CES (care episode statistics). CES will link data across all care settings, with primary care data being the first to be included.

The Royal College of GPs also helped produce the guidance and some FAQs.

College president Clare Gerada said: ‘Use of data has significant potential for improving patient care so we are pleased to be working with the BMA and NHS England on this important initiative to equip patients, clinicians and commissioners with accurate and timely information about the treatment and care provided by the NHS.' is the first initiative to use new powers under the Health and Social Care Act 2012 allowing, under certain circumstances, personal confidential data to be extracted from GP surgeries without seeking patient consent.

GPs at last week’s BMA local medical committees conference said they wanted to ensure patient confidentiality was protected as records became increasingly accessible online.