The content of this website is intended for healthcare professionals only

GP patient data revolution

Data will be anonymised and shared across the NHS, but patients can opt out

Mark Gould

Thursday, 30 May 2013

New guidance developed in partnership with the BMA and the Royal College of General Practitioners and NHS England explains how better use of anonymised patient information from general practice will help commissioners improve the quality, efficiency, and equity of health care services.

The GP Technical Specification explains how data from general practice will be collected, anonymised and used to improve patient care. The initiative is designed to link information from general practice, with information from hospitals and community health care services. NHS England says this will help the NHS evaluate and improve the quality and safety of the NHS, and enable patients to make more informed choices about the treatments and services they use.

The data will be held in a secure, controlled environment and will be made available to NHS organisations in anonymised form. But patients with concerns about confidentiality will be able to opt out.

Dr Laurence Buckman, Chair of the BMA GPs Committee, 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.

“The most important point is that patients will be able to object to confidential data from their GP records being used for care.data 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.”

RCGP chair Dr Clare Gerada, said use of data has significant potential for improving patient care. "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.

“As we streamline and improve the way data is used in the NHS, it is vital that we continue to safeguard patient confidentiality – the cornerstone of the GP patient relationship – and that patients’ wishes remain paramount, whether or not they choose to allow their data to be used for the benefit of future healthcare.”

Implementation will start with a small number of practices to test the process, and GP practices will be written to well in advance of any extract so that they can raise awareness with patients about the new service.

Tim Kelsey, National Director for Patients and Information for NHS England said: “The care.data service will create an environment where data can flow more securely and effectively, and where the impact and outcomes of treatment and care are much better understood. By providing high quality data we can help ensure that everybody can make the right decisions at the right time.

“The data will be used to support local health and care commissioners by giving them access to timely and accurate information that they can use to plan health services that best fit the needs of their local community.”

Registered in England and Wales. Reg No. 2530185. c/o Wilmington plc, 5th Floor, 10 Whitechapel High Street, London E1 8QS. Reg No. 30158470