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Care.data confidentiality concerns cannot be ignored, say doctors

The potential benefits of plans to extract more information from medical records do not mean confidentiality concerns can be ignored, doctors maintained.

Lucy-Jane DavisThey unanimously agreed at the BMA annual public health medicine conference in London today that ethical concerns over the collection of data through the controversial care.data scheme should be recognised.

The assembled doctors pointed out that extraction of this data, which has now been delayed until autumn, would fail to yield the expected health benefits without the confidence of doctors and patients.

BMA public health medicine trainees subcommittee chair Lucy-Jane Davis (pictured) questioned what ‘pseudo-anonymised’ meant in the context of the data sets.

NHS England guidance states that data will initially only be made available for commissioning, in an anonymised or pseudonymised form — not containing any patient identifiers.

But Dr Davis added: ‘I’m not entirely clear what that means. I’m not entirely clear how safe it can be.’

Public health doctors at the conference maintained that the BMA should have a strong collective voice on the benefits and risks of data collection.

They further argued that a working group on data, across different branches of practice, should be created with a view to informing the BMA, the wider profession and patients.