GPs have joined Wigan’s health watchdog in voicing concerns over a controversial new patient data sharing programme.
From April, a giant database, Care.data, will be rolled out in England with non-identifiable records to help aid medical research and the monitoring of performance.
Earlier this month, the watchdog group Healthwatch Wigan, chaired by former MP Sir Ian McCartney voiced their concerns over the plans and now GPs have followed suit.
A spokesman for Healthwatch Wigan said: “We recognise that medical research is vital in developing new drugs and new treatments and that sharing information and data can support such research.
“However patients need to be assured that their own personal information won’t be shared – it’s clear that at the moment many patients have concerns and for this reason NHS England need to act.
“As the NHS develop plans for greater integration – between GPs and Hospitals and even between Social Care and Healthcare – it needs to think very carefully about how it deals with patient information.
“This is crucial for patient confidence and trust in the NHS and in our doctors. We would urge all involved – politicians, commissioners and managers – to take these concerns seriously in order to maintain high levels of confidence in the NHS.”
The Royal College of GPs (RCGP) said it supported the plan in principle but was “very worried” the public had not been properly informed.
There has been huge criticism of the Care.data system, which is being established to aid medical research and monitor NHS performance more closely.
The plan is to link data from GP records with information from hospitals to give an idea of what happens to patients along the way.
The data being extracted from GP systems includes things such as family history, vaccinations, referrals for treatment, any diagnoses and information about prescriptions.
It can also include biological values such as a patient’s blood pressure, body mass index and cholesterol levels.
Personal confidential data (PCD) identifiers will also be included such as date of birth, postcode, NHS number and gender. These are needed to link the GP data with other information obtained in hospitals.
RCGP honorary secretary Professor Nigel Mathers said: “We are very concerned that, with just seven weeks to go before the national roll-out, the public have not been properly informed about the benefits of and the safeguards surrounding the Care.data programme.
“The inevitable result of the failure to make the case for the scheme is the crisis of public confidence that we are now seeing.
“We urgently need a renewed national push by the authorities to ensure that patients are fully informed, in clear terms, about the benefits of the scheme, what their rights are, and what their rights to opt out are.”