A SOMERSET MP has hit out at plans to share patients' medical records as part of a new NHS plan.

From July 1, data held in every person's GP medical records by NHS Digital will be made available to third parties, in what the departments says will improve work in fields such as researching the long-term impact of coronavirus, analysing healthcare inequalities and researching and developing cures for serious illnesses.

However, others fear the release of such data could be an infringement of people's privacy and could lead to the misuse of data for commercial purposes by the private sector.

NHS Digital says data which could identify the 55 million patients who would automatically be included in the scheme would be encrypted initially - but could be decrypted if required, prompting fears over the security of the process.

On the website outlining the changes, NHS Digital says: "NHS Digital will not collect patients' names or addresses.

"Any other data that could directly identify patients (such as NHS Number, date of birth, full postcode) is replaced with unique codes which are produced by de-identification software before the data is shared with NHS Digital."

However, it does say the data could be reverted to identify patients if necessary.

Patients have until June 23 to opt out of having their data shared, and Bridgwater and West Somerset MP, Ian Liddell-Grainger, has urged people to do so, accusing the Department of Health and Social Care of trying to 'slip the scheme through under the radar'.

"It has not received anything like the widespread publicity such a monumental undertaking should,” he said.

“At the very least patients should be sent personal letters setting out the proposals and giving them a chance to reflect and make a decision as to whether their information should or should not be made available.

“Now that concerns are being raised I can foresee a rush of patients approaching their GPs at a time when, like so many sections of the NHS, surgeries are under extra pressure because of Covid.

“I sincerely hope now that the opposition to this automatic transfer is gaining some traction the whole process will be put on hold so that a full public consultation can be conducted.”

Yeovil Express:
CONCERNS: Bridgwater and West Somerset MP, Ian Liddell-Grainger

An NHS Digital spokesperson said: “We have engaged with doctors, patients, data, privacy and ethics experts to design and build a better system for collecting this data.

"The data will only be used for health and care planning and research purposes, by organisations which can show they have an appropriate legal basis and a legitimate need to use it.”

But a group of London GPs has now said it will refuse to share patients' data when the scheme comes into force in July, in a bid to raise awareness of the plans.

All 36 surgeries in Tower Hamlets, east London, have said they will not share data, with more being urged to join them in the boycott.

Dr Ameen Kamlana, one fo the Tower Hamlets GPs taking part in the action, told The Guardian: “Essentially what’s being asked for here is people’s entire health record, so everything that we’ve coded in people’s records from the time of their birth to the time of their death, including their physical, mental and sexual health, including their health-related concerns with family and work and including their drug and alcohol history.

“Essentially all your most intimate private details of your life is being asked to be handed over and we were concerned that the public aren’t aware of what’s being done.”

People can opt out of the scheme before June 23 by completing online forms for two different options.

For more details on the scheme - and opting out - log on to https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/data-collections-and-data-sets/data-collections/general-practice-data-for-planning-and-research