NHS patient data sharing scheme to be delayed amid privacy concerns

Plans to allow an NHS system to extract patient data from doctors’ surgeries in England has been delayed by the Government following concerns around privacy.

Health minister Lord Bethell said the implementation date of the scheme would be pushed back until September 1 to ensure “that it is as effective as possible”.

It follows calls for a pause to allow for a public consultation and information campaign to allay the fears of the public and medical professionals.

Speaking In Parliament, Lord Bethell told peers: “Data saves lives. We have seen that in the pandemic and it’s one of the lessons of the vaccine rollout.”

He said the GP data programme “will strengthen the system and save lives”, but added: “That’s why we are taking some time to make sure that it is as effective as possible so the implementation date will now be September 1.

“We will use this time to talk to patients, doctors and to others to strengthen the plan, to build a trusted research environment and to ensure the data is accessed securely.”

The scheme will collect information on people’s treatments, referrals and appointments over the past 10 years, alongside other data from medical records held on GPs’ systems.

The collected data is coded by NHS Digital to protect patient identities.

But the British Medical Association (BMA) and Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) had voiced concerns that the move was being implemented too fast, without sufficient patient consultation, and had pressed for a delay.

Under the previous timetable, the BMA has said patients only had until June 23 to decline having their coded health data given to NHS Digital.

Daily “extracts” of the coded data from practice systems to NHS Digital would then have begun from July 1, it said.