NHS delays controversial patient data sharing scheme owing low public awareness

The NHS won’t give birth to its new controversial data-sharing initiative for another six months after the organisation decided that April 2014 is too soon to roll out the new scheme.

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NHS England decided to delay the roll out of Care.data until the autumn after claims that the campaign to raise public awareness of the campaign has been insufficient and it came after internal concerns were raised earlier this week.

“NHS England exists for patients and we are determined to listen to what they tell us. We have been told very clearly that patients need more time to learn about the benefits of sharing information and their right to object to their information being shared. That is why we are extending the public awareness campaign by an extra six months,” said Tim Kelsey, national director for patients and information at NHS England.

A mail out campaign that was supposed to reach every household began at the start of the year and a BBC poll, which surveyed a small sample of 860 people, reported that less than a third could recall receiving the information.

Care.data will hold a wealth of confidential information on past illnesses, medication, weight and blood pressure on a national database that can be accessed by anyone in the medical profession. It is supposed to make it easier for patient details to be shared by a number of stakeholders, though the main worry right now is the potential for data to be compromised.

This came to a head earlier this week when a document in The Daily Telegraph revealed that internally there is concerns related to hackers using data to “maliciously” identify patients by their records.

It also went on to state that Care.data could result in diminished trust in the NHS among members of the general public and patients not telling GPs information through fear of it being accessed by hackers.

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NHS England will be working with a small cluster of GP practices to test the quality of its data that are taking part on a voluntary basis and it’s expected Care.data will then go live at some point towards the end of 2014.