Two month delay in sharing patient data

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis. Pic: Yui Mok/PA Images

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis. Pic: Yui Mok/PA Images - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

A Norfolk MP has backed the two month delay of a new data sharing scheme but urged people to get their forms in to opt out of sharing their personal health data. 

Data from GP records in England was due to be added to the central General Pracitce for Planning Research database from July 1, prompting concerns from health bodies, patients and MPs around awareness of how the data would be used. 

Using patients' physical, mental and sexual health data, the information would be used in research including the long term impact of coronavirus, analyze healthcare inequalities and developing cures for serious illnesses.

NHS Digital confirmed on Wednesday the database will go live on September 1. 

Patients in Norwich who have begun the process to opt out of the database said their concerns were around the speed of the project and that they felt private and confidential information was being taken away by "stealth".

Labour MP Clive Lewis shared concerns around public awareness of the process and while sharing data had many benefits he did not trust how it would be used by third parties. 

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He said: "Whether their intentions were right or not they got this wrong, whatever the robust measures, fundamentally they breached public trust.

"Ultimately my message to my constituents in Norwich South and beyond is get your form in now or as soon as possible to withhold your data. If enough people do it, it cannot happen and if they want to come back this time they will do with complete accountability where everything can be seen and you know how it will be used."

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Mr Lewis wrote to all GPs in his constituency to contact patients and not feel pressured to hand over the data. 

Simon Bolton, CEO of NHS Digital, said: “We are absolutely determined to take people with us on this mission. We take our responsibility to safeguard the data we hold incredibly seriously.

“We intend to use the next two months to speak with patients, doctors, health charities and others to strengthen the plan even further.”

NHS Digital said data identifying patients such as addresses, will be replaced with unique codes and assured all requests will be scrutinised and data will not be sold or allowed solely for commercial purposes. 

A list of organisations using the data will also be published.

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