The head of the Medical Research Council has come out in defence of the NHS care.data scheme after medical staff and patients raised their concerns.
Professor Sir John Savill has defended the scheme, stating that if the government was to explain the scheme in more detail, patients would realise that it was a ‘no-brainer.’ He stated that then only ‘consent fetishists’ would still object to the plans.
The scheme was planned with the intention to link data from general practitioner records with data from hospitals to provide an overall picture of the patient’s care plan at every stage in the NHS. The project has been delayed until autumn after doctors, patients and professional organisations raised concerns about the amount of time being provided to gain sufficient knowledge about the programme.
Sir John has stated that this scheme could turn Britain into the most advanced clinical laboratory worldwide, with the benefits being felt in the UK first. He said that it could change the game entirely between healthcare and research. He feels that the process of studying de-identified data in a safe place without set consent does not threaten a patient’s confidentiality at all.
He further stated that the linking of medical research studies with the data scheme would aid the NHS in meeting the demands of a more demanding, aging population.
The data that will be taken from general practitioner systems includes information related to vaccinations, family history, treatment referrals, diagnoses and prescription information. It will also list the patient’s biological values, such as cholesterol levels, body mass index and blood pressure levels.
The NHS England has stated that it will work hand-in-hand with professional groups and patients to promote awareness of the project. Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, has plans to offer solid assurance to all patients that their confidential information will not be sold for commercial purposes.
Image credit: Mark Crossfield