Delay NHS medical history sharing, urges Labour

The NHS should delay plans to share personal medical histories with academic and commercial third parties, Labour has said.

In a letter to the chief executive of NHS Digital, shadow minister for prevention, public health and primary care Alex Norris said that although the benefits of collaborative planning and research are clear, data sharing must be “built on trust.”

Norris said that he shares concerns voiced by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and Doctor’s Association UK about the lack of communication with patients on the issue, as well as the lack of consultation.

“For these plans to be effective, and confidence in their doctors and the wider NHS to be maintained, it is vital that patients whose data will be shared have a clear understanding of this process,” the Labour minister wrote.

He said that Labour seeks reassurances about how these changes have been communicated to those whose data will be shared.

Norris called for greater public communication on which aspects of patient data will be made available, which third party organisations will have access to patient data, how the use of patient data is limited, what patients’ rights and the mechanisms to opt-out are, and the safeguards in place to protect confidential patient data.

The RCGP has said that for these plans to be successful, there needs to be a centrally coordinated campaign from the NHS, rather than left to individual GPs.

“Given the confusion and lack of transparency around this process, I believe that it is vital to delay the introduction of the General Practice Data for Planning and Research data collection until a public consultation and information campaign has taken place,” concluded the shadow minister.

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