General practitioner England

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Doctors' concerns prompt data sharing plan delay

The BMA has welcomed plans to delay extended patient data sharing in light of doctors’ concerns about a lack of public awareness.

data protectionNHS England today announced it was postponing the extraction of data from the medical records of general practice patients until the autumn.

The decision follows talks between the BMA and NHS England over GPs’ concerns that their patients were unaware of the implications of the scheme, which was due to be implemented in April.

The BMA supports the use of anonymised data to improve healthcare services but fears had been growing about the public awareness levels.

Doctors leaders said today’s decision to delay implementation would benefit patients and GPs by allowing NHS England more time to demonstrate the benefits of the scheme, including safeguards to protect anonymity and the right to opt out entirely.

Patients not ready

BMA GPs committee chair Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘We are pleased that the decision has been taken to delay the roll out of extractions to until the autumn.

‘It was clear from GPs on the ground that patients remained inadequately informed about the implications of 

‘While the BMA is supportive of using anonymised data to plan and improve the quality of NHS care for patients, this must only be done with the support and consent of the public, and it is only right that they fully understand what the proposals mean to them and what their rights are if they do not wish their data to be extracted.’

Dr Nagpaul added that the BMA looked forward to working with NHS England to ensure that ‘the public is properly informed and that safeguards are in place before uploads begin’.

Extension agreement

NHS England national director for patients and information Tim Kelsey said: ’NHS England exists for patients and we are determined to listen to what they tell us.

‘We have been told very clearly that patients need more time to learn about the benefits of sharing information and their right to object to their information being shared. That is why we are extending the public awareness campaign by an extra six months.’

NHS England will work with the BMA, Royal College of GPs and the patient group Healthwatch on developing practical steps to promote public awareness of and ensure the information is accessible to all, including disability groups.

It will also examine further ways of building public confidence such as how the information will be used to benefit NHS patients.

NHS England also plans to work with a small number of volunteer GP practices to test the quality of data extracted.

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