DOCTORS in Sunderland say they are pleased that Government plans to share patients’ personal data have been shelved for the time being.
The Echo reported earlier this week that there were worries from Wearside health professionals about plans which link data from GP records with information from hospitals.
The scheme’s aim is to give health professionals a better idea of what happens to patients at all stages.
Critics – including medical committees in Tyne and Wear, the British Medical Association (BMA) and the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) – have argued that patients are being kept in the dark about the plans.
They say that patients should have the opportunity to opt in to the scheme, rather than being told that they can opt out, should they wish to.
But NHS England has now said that the roll-out of the scheme, due to take place in April, will now happen later this year.
Doctor Roger Ford, who has been a practising GP for more than 30 years and is secretary of Sunderland Local Medical Group, welcomed the announcement.
He said: “Despite the potential advantages of the programme, only 23 per cent of local GPs and their managers are prepared to have their own personal medical records uploaded.
“Many say it is because of their mistrust in both the security and protection of their confidential data and its subsequent potential use by third parties.”
Dr Ford said the concerns had been triggered by statements from NHS England’s Tim Kelsey, national director of patients and information, who said that a recently signed agreement between the NHS and the USA Government’s Health Department would “try to make access to both markets easier for small and medium size enterprises” – indicating that data could be for sale to commercial organisations.
Dr Ford added: “The existence of an actual “price list” for requesting such data, both anonymised and confidential, gives GPs great concerns for the future direction of the NHS and their patients’ confidential medical data.”
A spokesman for NHS England said: “To ensure that the concerns of the BMA, RCGP, Healthwatch and other groups are met, NHS England will begin collecting data from GP surgeries in the autumn, instead of April, to allow more time to build understanding of the benefits of using the information, what safeguards are in place, and how people can opt out if they choose to.”