General practitioner England

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Patient data extraction requires explicit consent, say GPs

The extraction of GP patient data should only take place with the explicit and informed consent of patients opting-in, a conference has agreed.

data computerThis data should also only be used for the purpose of improving healthcare delivery and not sold for profit.

The BMA local medical committees conference said that GPs were placed in a difficult position by the competing demands of the Health and Social Care Act and the Data Protection Act.

They also agreed that data extracted under the government’s postponed scheme should be pseudonymised and anonymised before leaving the GP practice.

Devon GP Kate Gurney said: ‘I feel very strongly that we should be asking to actively opt in … [We should also] halt this transfer until every single patient has received a personal letter with a reply slip expressing their consent to opt in.’

Public awareness issue

GP negotiator Beth McCarron-Nash said the committee had received new information that NHS England was commissioning independent evaluation of all aspects of the implementation. 

The scheme is due to start extracting information from the medical records of pathfinder general practice patients in the autumn.

The BMA supports the use of anonymised data to improve healthcare services but believes patients should be fully informed about the process and are given the right to opt out entirely.

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