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Atos awarded contract for extracting GP patient data for care.data

Company has been criticised for its handling of fitness to work assessments

Ingrid Torjesen

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Atos, the company which has been blasted with criticism over its handling of ‘fitness to work’, assessments has been handed responsibility for removing personal data from GP patient records for the care.data initiative, the Commons health committee has been told.

The care.data programme will bring data from health and social care from primary and secondary care and pseudonymised data will then be made available to “approved groups of users,” including commissioners and researchers for planning and research purposes. Identifiable information would only be released in exceptional circumstances, such as during an epidemic.

Opponents of care.data have argued that lack of security and data breaches threaten patient confidentiality, and that private companies could acquire the patient data and use it for commercial purposes. The government has now delayed uploading of patient data from GP files to care.data for six months so that patients can be provided with more information about the programme, including details of how to opt out.

Health service officials have now disclosed that a key contract for the controversial project has been handed to the firm Atos, which has faced criticism over its handling of 'fitness for work' tests on disabled benefit claimants. Last week, Atos confirmed that it was seeking an early exit from its contract with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) which is due to run to August 2015.

The company has been heavily criticised over the assessments, which are used to determine eligibility for employment and support allowance and incapacity benefit, which have seen some people being wrongly recommended for work, or put through unnecessarily stressful medical interviews.

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