NEWS15 June 2021

Information commissioner welcomes NHS data plan delay

GDPR Healthcare News Privacy UK

UK – The UK information commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, has supported the NHS’s decision to delay the launch of a data collection scheme for patient data from GP practices from June to September.

Ambulance NHS_crop

The General Practice Data for Planning and Research (GPDPR) was to replace current NHS data collection systems this month and would have seen data collected from GP practices to inform health policy and campaigns, and potentially shared with third parties.

The GPDPR would not have collected entire patient records and would have protected or pseudonymised data before it left GP surgeries to ensure patients could not be directly identified while allowing the data to be linked to other records.

The data would be accessible to third parties wishing to use the data for healthcare planning and research purposes, with all requests for data subject to independent oversight and scrutiny.

Patients have the right to opt out of the GPDPR, and the delay to the programme will give patients more time to examine the programme and decide whether their data should be included.

The GPDPR has been controversial among some groups due to the ability of private companies to access patient data and the potential privacy implications.

Denham said the delay would allow more time to engage with healthcare practitioners and the general public, and consider any feedback about the GPDPR.

Denham said: “The success of any project will rely on people trusting and having confidence in how their personal data will be used.

“Data protection law enables organisations to share data safely and, when it comes to using health information there are particular safeguards that must be put in place to protect people’s privacy and ensure effective transparency. This ensures people’s data isn’t used or shared in ways they wouldn’t expect.

“We look forward to continuing to engage with NHS Digital regarding this important project.”

Simon Bolton, chief executive of NHS Digital, said: “Data saves lives and has huge potential to rapidly improve care and outcomes, as the response to the Covid-19 pandemic has shown. The vaccine rollout could not have been delivered without effective use of data to ensure it reached the whole population.

“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.”