Patients to be contacted directly about care.data scheme

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NHS England has instituted a plan where hundreds of practices will try to determine the best method of informing patients about the care.data scheme and the methods of opting out.

Patients will be required to opt out of the pilots as this forms part of the agreement reached with the RCGP and BMA after the delay to the original launch date of February.

This comes in spite of the BMA’s policymaking body voting that the scheme should be introduced on an opt-in basis only.

There will be about 100 to 500 practices involved in this pilot scheme. These practices will have to send out individual letters, texts or emails to all their patients with a full explanation of the scheme.

NHS England is currently reviewing whether an enhanced service will be introduced during the pilots to fund GPs to offer this.

The scheme was delayed by NHS England in a bid to ‘build understanding’ of the benefits it offers.

This delay came after the RCGP and BMA withdrew support for the scheme, which is set to obtain patient records from GP systems and match it with secondary care data. The withdrawal came after warnings that huge numbers of patients had not received adequate information about the scheme and that it was the duty of NHS England to address individual letter to patients.

The LMCs Conference voted against an opt out scheme, and requested that confidential patient data be anonymised prior to leaving the practice.

After the review, NHS England made the decision that patients will have to opt out rather than opt in and have given no indication that the data would be anonymised at its source.

The national director for patients and information at NHS England, Tim Kelsey, said they have been listening to public, GP and other stakeholder views since February, in a bid to address their concerns regarding data sharing. He said they have heard that they should offer clarity about the care.data programme and the more support was needed for GPs to communicate the risks and benefits of data sharing with their patients, including the facility to opt out.

NHS England has not provided date as to when the pilots will commence. It has however hinted that an enhanced service may be created to fund GP practices to accept the work that is required.

The healthcare service said the pathfinder pilots will consider:

• Additional burdens on GPs and practice staff
• Additional burdens on CCGs
• Options regarding the easing of possible burdens
• Other factors such as through use of all data in a bid to reduce resource needs in other sections

It has been revealed by Pulse that GPs were by default using the opt-out feature for their patients due to a lack of information. This action resulted in one GP, Dr Gordon Gancz from Oxford, receiving a threat from NHS England regarding his contract.

Image Credit: Oliver Tacke

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