Hackney GPs consider opting out of national health data system over privacy fears
PUBLISHED: 16:59 27 November 2013 | UPDATED: 17:49 27 November 2013
Doctors in Hackney are considering breaking the law by opting out of a national system which could allow their data to be shared outside the NHS, or potentially sold.
Under a new patient data system called the care.data programme, information that identifies patients will be extracted from local GP systems and shared centrally.
NHS England wrote to all GP practices in England in August and September, telling them they had eight weeks to inform their patients that the care.data programme would begin to take confidential information from their records
But following an outcry by GPs, NHS England announced it will send a leaflet about data sharing to every household in England from January 2014, and won’t start taking information until spring.
Although it’s understood that most patients will be able to opt out of the system, doctors in Hackney are so concerned about the scheme that they are considering breaching statutory guidance by opting out altogether.
A Hackney GP, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “A number of GPs are concerned about it.
“No-one knows about it. There’s been no publicity about it or any real discussions in medical papers about it. The government has only just announced they are going to send info in January and extract data in the spring.
“Patients know that their data is confidential and they are concerned this is going to undermine it.
“People who are depressed tell me they don’t want it on their records. They are worried about their employees knowing.
“We understand there’s no way we can say where the data is going to. If somebody can hack Microsoft, then why can’t they hack this data.
“Local doctors and those from around the country are considering opting out.”
NHS England insists the data will only be shared with Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) but GPs are concerned that it could be shared with researchers or private companies or be hacked.
A spokesman from the British Medical Association (BMA) said: “The aim of this service is to make better use of the valuable information in medical records to improve the quality of patient care.
“We have worked with NHS England and the Royal College of General Practitioners to ensure that these changes do not undermine existing standards of patient confidentiality and that GPs are informed as to how the changes will affect them and their patients.”